So I thought of the one place that I connected to viscerally and sensually, in my adulthood…and that was Italy — a culture that celebrates life from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night. From that moment on, I couldn’t imagine a nicer way to spend the day than in the company of family and friends, in a relaxed Tuscan/Florence atmosphere.
And that is what my family conjured up. They invited people that were important to me and that I could feel comfortable around. They decorated my sister’s beautiful home with all sorts of Italian embellishments — from the music, to the photos of Italy on the walls, to the book stand with coffee table volumes on Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Bernini. The food was glorious. Proscuito-wrapped melon, and asparagus. Shrimp wrapped in snap-peas. Pasta, anti-pasto, balsamic vinagrette salads, thick Italian breads. Coffee, cakes to die for, and gelato. (And, of course, Grappa and Limoncello).
I was in heaven and I had more fun than I could have even imagined. Just looking around the room at the family and friends who have been part of my life…some for a shorter while and some for my entire life. It was a great day.
I had been a little down in the weeks leading up to my birthday, especially after so many of my childhood icons died so closely together — Michael Jackson (my age), Farah Fawcett (who’s hair style I emulated, along with so many of my high school friends), Ed McMahon (a laugh never to be forgotten), and even Karl Malden. I remember my grandmother telling me, how at a certain point in her life, she became addicted to two things in the daily paper — the crossword puzzle, and the obituaries. Every day she’d strengthen her mind, and also, scour the paper to see who she knew who had died. Oftentimes, I’d sit with her and we’d eat lemon meringue pie while she’d tell me about so and so who had died and a bit about their past.
I realize that I’m going to hear about MANY icons, from my child and early adulthood, dying over the course of the next twenty, thirty and beyond years. And I’m going to have to get ready for it…just like my fellow boomers. An old boyfriend sent me birthday wishes and reminded me that we knew each other when I was 15 and he was 17. Omigod. That’s a lifetime ago…more.
My mother, following in her mom’s footsteps, does the crossword puzzle every day. On many days, she and I huddle together on the couch trying to break the “code” and see if we can solve ANY part of the puzzle. But rather than scour the obits, my mom has decided to become a rabbi. She’s been accepted into a wonderful program and starts class on September 6th. She’ll graduate as an ordained rabbi at 78.
I recognize that I’ve reinvented myself many times over and have lived in many different cities. Each step has been one that has made me into a better and more complex, multi-faceted person. So at the 50 year marker, I know that I can reminisce, but I can’t look back — only forward — to what my next future holds — and I’m discovering, today, that I’m very mellow, and very thankful, on the first day of my 51st year.