Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Birthday in a minor key

Like most of you I immediately called my family upon hearing that a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre six years ago. I remember my father’s reaction when I tearfully asked if he was okay.

I’m great – happy birthday to you!”
No dad…turn on the television…there was a plane…people are jumping…New York is burning.”
A pause.
Well, I can still wish you a happy birthday.”

And so he did. And while that particular birthday was spent drinking wine and weeping in front of the television, the birthdays since have been bittersweet reminders of just how fortunate I am.

People often murmur sympathetically when they hear my birthday is on September 11th, but I refuse to indulge that. I was not directly affected by that horrible day. I didn’t lose anyone I love and to complain that my birthday was ruined by the terrorist attacks feels churlish at best, and at worst, downright disrespectful to the real victims of September 11th.

I’m feeling a little melancholy about my birthday this year, though it has nothing to do with the date on which it falls.

I know I am blessed. My son amazes me every day. I love my husband like stink.

And yet.

I have a close and loving relationship with my parents, brother and in-laws. A huge gaggle of cousins and friends make me smile every day. I love my job.

And yet.

Sometimes it seems like the march of time is increasingly grim and relentless. Like the days, weeks and months slide one into another, a blur of keeping up, keeping house, paying debts, paying heed. I rush through the days and nights, stealing moments of happiness, waiting to feel completely present, waiting, if you’ll pardon the cliché, to exhale.

I think of the girl I used to be - wild, free and determined to change the world. I wonder if she would laugh or cry if she could see me now, sitting at my computer in Don Mills and indulging in my bourgeois introspection.

But I know that girl couldn’t possibly understand who I have become. I know she never brushed a baby’s skin against her cheek just to breathe in its sweetness or rubbed her husband’s shoulder just to banish his weariness or looked at the lines on her dear father’s face and thought When did he get so old?

She couldn’t possibly understand that time passes. Life happens. And birthdays come and go.

I understand – I do. But at times the knowledge still seems burdensome.

How about you? Do you love or loath your birthday? Do you count your blessings or mourn your expectations?

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