Thursday, July 14, 2011

Not Quite Half a Century

Birthdays have always been a time of deep, spiritual reflection for me.  A time to take stock and to contemplate the year that has passed.  A time to focus on my own personal growth.  A time to celebrate the good and to let go of the bad.  A time to bring into focus how I can become a better human being in the coming year.  And yet, I have always had a very difficult time with my birthdays.  It might have begun when I turned 18 and my dad inadvertently allowed the entire day to pass without so much as a phone call.  That was a tumultuous time for me and my brother as my father had finally made the final break from my mother by officially moving out of our family home which left me to deal with a very bitter and angry woman who took a good portion of her resentment out on me.  In some ways, I felt left behind and although the 49 year old me has long forgiven that difficult period in my life, birthdays can bring back flashes of the sadness that I experienced at that time.  A bit silly, I know, and I certainly have rationally worked through all of the emotions that came with being forgotten by my dad, but still, a small part of that 18 year old girl still lives inside of me and she likes to nudge me by reminding me that I might not have mattered all that much.  To my dad's defense, he still insists that I change the date of my birthday every year which I fully accept responsibility for AND he does not always recall the date of his own birthday or age, deferring to me when he needs the answer to that very confusing puzzle.  Fast forward 25 years from my 18th year, and my beloved grandmother who treated me more like a daughter than a granddaughter passed away on the morning of my 43rd birthday.  She was extremely ill for the entire week before my birthday and we knew that her transition was close at hand.  Having my grandma die on my birthday made her passing even more painfully poignant because I spent a lot of time caring for her, especially during her last six months while she suffered immeasurably, and because I loved her so much.   I do admit that I felt and still feel, that the date of her death had some spiritual significance for me which I still contemplate from time to time, especially when July looms closer each year.  So while many people look forward to celebrating their birthdays, I have a very visceral response to mine.  If I spend some time preparing for the date in my mind, things go a lot smoother, but if I allow the date to sneak up on me without a fair amount of spiritual and emotional preparation, I can end up in a bit of a funk.  This is sort of a "chicken or the egg" dilemma for me because I'm not quite sure yet if my "funk" begins with my deep-seated sadness or if my sadness comes from some birthdays being somewhat traumatic for me.  Ultimately, my wish is that I have many, many more birthdays left to contemplate all of this because I hope to be here for a very, very long time.  And the truth is that most of my birthdays are quite lovely.  My daughters make me the most heartfelt birthday cards that you can imagine.(I still require that they make me cards and not buy them from the store.)  Mark is thoughtful and loving and always arranges for our daughters to spend some time with us showering me with love and affection.  I love nothing more than having all of our girls around and the older that they get, the more difficult it becomes, so being together doing something fun is always a treat for me.

This year, I found a little wish kit that I decided would make a nice way of releasing the year that has passed and beginning my 49th year on this earth.  The kit contained sheets of tissue paper, matches, a small pencil and a little base on which to place the paper scrolls as you burn them.  The idea is that everyone writes something on a sheet of the paper and then rolls it into a scroll.  The scroll is then set aflame with one of the matches and as it catches fire, the paper is supposed to rise up into the air taking the wishes or sentiments along with it.  Angel Daughter Number One and Angel Daughter Number Two  were both busy with work on my actual birthday(And yes, AD1 did work The British Academy of Film and Television Arts gala hosting the Prince and Princess on Saturday!!!  More about that next time!), so they did not come down to the beach with us to set our wishes into the sky, but AD3, Jacob and AD4 did.  They were getting ready to head off to an Angel game which is why my girls have on their Angel's tee-shirts(quite appropriate).  Jacob just wasn't in the spirit!  Now I know what his wardrobe is in desperate need of.

Mark took turns lighting the scrolls on fire for us.

But instead of heading up into the sky, the flaming scrolls headed down to the ground which is why AD4 and Jacob are looking down instead of up!

When we were all finished, AD4 noticed that her scroll had not only landed on the ground, but it settled into the shape of a perfect heart.  I did not ask her what she wished for(wishes are private), but she was so excited about the final result.  Maybe, when I am singing her to sleep one night in the darkness of her 17 year old room where some secrets are still okay for a momma's ears, I will ask her what she wished for.  Knowing my girl with the sunny disposition, it was something that might make a mother's heart swell.  Looking at the beautiful smile on AD3's face, I have a feeling that her wish would have the very same effect.  Such sweet girls.

So cute!

The waves crashed along the rocks as we performed our little ceremony.  It was such a gorgeous day.

You never know what you are going to see down on our beaches and my birthday was no exception.  This beautiful bride was swept off of her feet and carried barefoot by her groom so that they could take some photos by the sea.  I love the cross-section of the ordinary and the extraordinary.  This is one of the many reasons that I constantly carry my camera with me.  It allows me to notice and to share tiny moments that would typically be missed throughout a day.  My children think I am a bit obsessive when it comes to stopping to take pictures, but I discover the most incredible things through my lens.  It is like having another set of eyes.  Oftentimes, going through the photos I have taken is like a treasure hunt for me and I am fascinated by what I find.

On Sunday, Angel Daughter Number One and Angel Daughter Number Two came down to spend the day with the rest of us.  Each year, there is an arts and crafts fair that is called The Sawdust Festival which is set up for about two months in the summertime.  I have taken the girls to it since they were babies because it is a nice way to check out some of the local artisans while spending a beautiful day outdoors(plus they really took good naps after being outdoors).  This year, I gravitated toward a wonderful vendor named Michele Taylor.  

Her colorful ceramic trinkets and her mixed-media pieces drew me in and I was captivated by her work.  The little pieces above representing mostly religious and spiritual icons are quite unusual.  She also adds them to her mixed-media creations adding a beautiful dimension and texture to her work.  I purchased several small pieces that I have not had the time to photograph yet, but I will do so soon so that you can see them.  I love artwork that makes me feel closer to God, and Michelle's work evoked that emotion in me.

Above is a picture of Michelle.  On her desk were elements that she was using to create new pieces.  I really enjoy seeing how an artist works.  Michelle's desk might look a bit messy, but it was a beautiful mess!

I really liked the way that these shawls caught the sunlight at that time of the day.

My littlest Angel Daughter trying to pull me along as I stop to take yet another photograph.

The Sawdust Festival is located in a lush canyon in Laguna Beach.  This gives it a very magical feel.
After the festival we went out to a restaurant called Mozambique.  The South African setting really made it feel as if we were visiting another country!  Known for their Peri-Peri spice, the food was deliciously seasoned and delivered quite a kick!

My loves.

One of my favorite parts of the evening was when the waitress asked with a very serious look on her face, if all of these girls were ours.  When we said yes, she told me that I did not look old enough to have daughters this old!  I must admit that it still makes me smile when people say that.  I certainly feel like their momma.  I guess that no matter how old we all get, they will always be my little ducklings.  

I am still reflecting back upon the year which has passed.  It was a difficult year filled with some very tough losses, but I am looking forward to this year being a more peaceful year filled with quiet moments by the sea.  I am still searching.  Searching for who I am now that I am a momma of almost fully grown daughters.  Searching for who I am as a now only child whose parents are aging seemingly faster than I am. Searching for what I will do next.  I do know that one thing is for sure.  In spite of the obstacles that are placed in my path, life is good.  Very, very good.  And I will continue to fight for love, something that I have always believed is worth any cost.  After all, without love, what is there?

Thank you so much for all of the lovely birthday wishes.  You encircle me with a feeling of encouragement, love and support.  For that, I am eternally grateful.


Miss A said...

Ohhhhh! Happy again and again! Loved this post, loved it so much. And by the way, at the last pic I was like, wait, doesn't she have four daughters??? Why 5 now? It was you! You look great :))

Angella Lister said...

Such a beautiful sharing. I see you and Mark in each of your daughters' faces, especially in the light that shines out from them. A lovely family, you are blessed. But i know it didn't happen by magic. You carefully and lovingly, year in, year out, made it so.

Love and hugs, dear friend, and happy birthday again.

Renee said...

"In spite of the obstacles placed in my path, life is good....." beautifully said. Happy Birthday and may the coming year bring you an abundance of blessings and great adventures with God.

Mark said...

It's true, you don't look old enough. Maybe you should insist to be called AD1, yourself, and bump all the girls down a notch. Wouldn't they hate that demotion.
I certainly wouldn't look at my grandmother dying on my birthday as a a bad thing. Quite the opposite! I was thinking that she held on long enough to be ther on your birthday.
I'm glad that you had a great time and I'm also glad that you always carry your camera. I do too! Because you're right, you never know what will happen.
Your Friend, m.

Shrinky said...

Your daughters are absolutely STUNNING, just like their momma - 49?? - never!

I'm sorry your birthdate has echoes of sorrow attatched, but glad you can rationalise and still enjoy the celebration. I love this ceremony of yours, it's a beautiful way to begin a new year.

My eldest's birthday is also a bittersweet day for me, my mother commited suicide on the same day he was born.

Kathleen Botsford said...

I agree with Mark. I would look at your grandmother's passing on your birthday as the most supreme and loving gift to you. Now you both share the same birthday.....just different planes! My mother passed on my brother's birthday and my husband's brother passed over on mine....such is life. My niece is getting ready to have the first child of our next generation....I was hoping it would be on my father's Holy day, for that was when she due but the doctors are taking it a bit early. :( Love to you dear one and may the Light of God smile on your reflections with His healing breath and gentle love.

koshercritternyc said...

I love the idea of the scrolls and your daughters look so cute in the Angels jerseys!

I'm glad that in spite of the rough times you've been able to look back reflectively and cherish all the beauty.

And the waitress was right -- you do not look old enough to have all of these lovely mature daughters!!

deb colarossi said...

Happy Birthday .
You are beautiful , inside and outside. !!!!!!

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