Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ducks in a Row, Being Different, and "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today" - Okay, Maybe It Was a Bit More Than That...


My husband returned from San Francisco this afternoon, and I am so glad to have him back home! For someone who loves traveling, I am the most curious of homebodies. I am someone who absolutely loves to have her family round her in that wonderful place they call home, but who also takes great delight in flying off somewhere exciting at a moment’s notice. However, when another member of the family has gone to (or has been left behind in, as was the case this week) an exciting place, I always look forward to having them back where they belong safe and sound. I never take that last bit for granted. To me, every time we come home safely - separately or together - it is the most wonderful gift from God. So tonight, I am utterly content, with all my ducks in a row. (That is one of my favourite expressions. Although it actually means “to get one’s act together” for me it means having my family nearby, all of us safely together.)

I discovered the most amazing flower in my garden today. It was a beautiful white flower, tucked in between one of my blue-y mauve rose bushes (I have unfortunately forgotten the actual name of the rose) and some gorgeous lavender. I was a bit confused as to where it might have come from, as it was the only white flower in the vicinity. For a horrible moment I thought it might be a weed, but determined there was no way I was going to pull it out. Imagine my surprise when I grasped the stem of the flower to have a better look, and realised I was holding a piece of my rose bush! Somehow, a hybrid flower has appeared out of nowhere. It looks so pretty, it reminded me how things don’t always have to fit in perfectly to belong. It’s as true in life as it is in the garden.

When I was a very little girl (I remember that I was looking up at my parents, and I was not much taller than the arm of my Dad’s favourite chair), my best friend and I had a conversation in my parents’ recreation room. We were talking about “The Year 2000” (nobody called it “The Millennium” back then). We calculated, that in that year, we would both turn thirty-something. It sounded absolutely ancient. (Okay, I am fibbing, we didn’t say thirty-something - we said thirty and a number. But I’m not telling you what, because that would be telling!) Anyway, we stayed in touch over the years and have laughed about that story many times, particularly the year of “The Millennium”. Somehow, that year, thirty-whatever-it-was did not seem very old after all.

And for me, a few birthdays post-millennium, it seems positively juvenile. I’m not going to say how old I am, but I will say that, despite how much my son delights in teasing me, I’m nowhere near what I would consider to be a seriously “significant” birthday. Tomorrow, I’ll be forty-something (think low numbers here, I’ve only just jumped over that hurdle) and I have to say my prevailing emotion is one of gratitude. There are so many people I have known over the years who are not here now, from the gorgeous little girl with the curly hair in my kindergarten class who got hit by a car, to the lovely girl I knew who died of leukemia at age 10, to a chap I worked with who died in a car accident on the way home from work not long after he got married. Any one of them would be thrilled to celebrate achieving the age I celebrate becoming tomorrow; none of them were even close when they died. Why do we living worry so much about getting older? Admittedly, some things are easier when you are younger, but many most definitely are not, and I would not trade one single second of my amazing life for even a millisecond's reduction in my age.

Emma Thompson was recently quoted as saying, "I'm 50 now and I think, 'Well why can't I just be 50? What's wrong with that?' Quite right. (Although I feel compelled to emphasise again that I am only just past the post in terms of forty...). But seriously, why do we dread our birthdays so much as we get older? Is it not the most incredible privilege to get to celebrate having lived another year? I know life is cruel, and for every year we celebrate, there are some we only just manage get through, but still there is that fundamental thrill of just being alive that takes my breath away whenever I think of it. We take so much for granted.

I am grateful for every single year I’ve lived. The huge majority of them have been wonderful, some of them have been really hard, and one or two have taught me lessons I hoped I’d never need to learn. But they are mine, and I’m blessed in some way by every single one of them. Okay, I get frustrated that print seems to be getting smaller every year (and yes, I know the size of the print is not actually changing), and I now understand that aside from keeping me from flying off into space, gravity is not my friend, but it is a wonderful thing indeed to be able to gather the people I love around me, light some candles and raise a glass of champagne to the 'tries her best", wonderful, quirky, occasionally a bit ditzy and blond (!) person who is me.

I hope you feel the same way as I do about birthdays, and that the next birthday you celebrate is a happy one, whichever side of forty you are on!

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