Anne Notations

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My fifty-fifth year to heaven. Or, somewhere.

When I was a kid, I could tell it was time for my birthday when all of a sudden, whoooomp, the trees would shuck off their last pretty leaves and we would enter The Dread Drear Murk of mid-November.

Today I awoke on my 55th birthday to a muffler of fog and a classic case of the New England late-autumn blahs. It was a gray day, wet, devoid of color. Devoid of joy, I feared.

Yes, that is the same tree I photographed last week in all of its crimson glory. It's still attractive in an austere, bare-ruined-choirs way, but the sight of all those gorgeous leaves lying soggily on the ground is a bit depressing.

My birthday began even less auspiciously and far earlier than usual with a 2:30 a.m. gastric-reflux event that had me leaping from bed and violently hawking my lungs out to clear them of searing bile. Afterwards, breathless, I was afraid to lie down and risk a recurrence, so I stayed up and Googled "aspiration pneumonia" and scared the bejeezus out of myself until 4 a.m.
As my daughter kindly and correctly observed this morning: "Mom, you have huge bags under your eyes."

If I'd ever doubted that I was at the far end of middle age, here was the proof.

At 55 you start getting birthday cards that feature wizened biddies and wisecracking taglines.
This is the front of the actual card that my husband left on the counter for me this morning. Thanks, dear!

Never mind. Daisy must be walked first thing, so off we went in the clammy fog. Right away, we saw a work crew deconstructing a big old tree down the block - so cheery. That's definitely what we need in our neighborhood: more barren streetscapes.

The second and third things I noticed were our For Sale By Owner sign squatting forlornly on the front lawn, and the bedraggled remnants of the "pretty perennial gardens" mentioned in all my Craigslist ads for our house. Ach.

Ach. Walk. Walk walk walk. For a while it seemed we would encounter nothing but bleakness.
A bizarrely carbuncled tree trunk, for example, and some smooshed hosta leaves that had forsaken all hope.

There was some downright evil-looking stuff out there in the fog, like a humungous gnarled tree root that a homeowner on Rochambeau Avenue mounted on a metal pipe in his front yard. Behold the nightmare child of Pablo Picasso and Hieronymous Bosch. Doesn't it trill "Welcome" to one and all?

And how about this beauty across the street? Yikes.

Quit that snickering, Mother Nature. Halloween is over.

I saw something that chronically makes me mad. Several mornings a week, a long trailer truck blocks half of Hope Street while it unloads at Davis Dairy. Pedestrians like Daisy and me - and, worse, moms and dads with strollers or younglings walking south - risk our lives trying to get past it during rush-hour traffic. Bah, humbug!

But. You knew there would be a but, didn't you? And coming from me, you knew it would be - snicker - a BIG but. Deep down inside, or maybe bubbling just under the surface, or actually prancing around like a floozy, is my inner Pollyanna, the unlikely optimist who sees the lemonade in every lemon, the silver lining in every glowering cloud. You are forewarned: here she comes.

As we walked I began to notice other stuff: a little tree bravely flaunting its still-glowing leaves. Ornamental grasses waving feathered heads alongside a busy street. A Tenacious D(aisy), smiling and sunny, next to someone's front steps.

That sly Mother Nature even hung some jewels on a dogwood tree for me. A girl's best friend!

The best part was encountering a dear friend from Little Compton in the 1980s. From the fog on Morris Avenue emerged Beverly Edwards, who had been minister of the Congregational Church I attended on the town Commons - a feminist and spiritual mentor, an inspiration, a lovely person who wrote honest, breathtaking sermons that echoed in my head for days after each Sunday service. Retired now and living in Providence, she exudes youth and kindness. Did I say the day was devoid of joy? Well, I found joy, and she was wearing a purple sweatshirt.

Back at the ranch, I realized I'd even received roses for my birthday - right in our own front yard.

No woman's birthday would be complete without chocolate. Mine was a bag of Lindt peanut butter balls from Kevin, who also made me a card.

In case it's hard to make out, here's a detail - Kevin's rendering of yours truly wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. This broad is way sassier than the crone who looked back at me from the mirror this morning. Yay!

I'd enjoyed a special birthday entertainment earlier in the week: this concert, which Andrés and I rode the commuter train to Boston to see Monday night. Yep, my favorite band.

(Photos by Andrés from our vantage point in front of the stage.)

Yesterday I'd gotten some amazing smiles from Caroline the wonder-grandchild, who will turn one year old shortly and who loves to read. That's our girl!

Tonight, Michael brought home dinner from Whole Foods and this lemon mousse cake from Pastiche, our family's official Best Bakery in the World.

The icing: These smiles from Melinda and Kevin. I marvel that our kids seem to enjoy being with their ol' mom. How did I get so lucky?

So: bad weather? Ice and snow? Bleak black trees? Bring it on! I'm 55 and glad to be alive, eye-bags and all.


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