March 15, 2016 by Jean
Last week, I had a birthday. I’m not a person who dreads getting older. A serious cancer diagnosis when I was fifty gave me a clear understanding of the alternative to aging, and I see each year as a gift. At this stage of life, however, I no longer care about having a group celebration on my actual birthday. I had a big blow-out bash with family and friends for my 50th birthday and I might do it again for my 70th. (I still feel as though those decade marks deserve special attention.) But even if I don’t have a celebration with others, I still enjoy the day.
Most years, I spend my birthday alone at home indulging in small pleasures, which is what I did this year. Although my birthday fell on a weekday, I jettisoned my usual weekday schedule in favor of the kind of a relaxing day more characteristic of my weekends. Over breakfast, I began reading a novel that I had specifically saved for the occasion, Bury Your Dead (Minotaur Books, 2010), the sixth in Louise Penny’s mystery series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. I am drawn to these novels by their setting in Quebec, with its rich culture and complicated politics founded on the history of Francophone-Anglophone relations. (Three of my four grandparents were French Canadian immigrants to the United States.) I also love the way Penny creates complex characters full of both strengths and human flaws and the way that she builds up new layers of complexity in each novel.
My reading was only one element of my birthday enjoyment. My birthday fell on an unseasonably warm and sunny spring-like day. In the afternoon, I took advantage of the weather by going out for a walk around my neighborhood with my camera to photograph signs of spring. I also indulged myself with meals made from favorite foods.
I no longer exchange birthday gifts with family and friends, but I did enjoy the birthday greetings that came by telephone, in the mail, by email, and on Facebook. In addition, I saved some special purchases to treat myself on this special day. I indulged my tea addiction by placing an order for some of my favorite teas from my favorite tea retailer, Upton Tea Imports. I also treated myself by signing up for several spring and summer courses at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a gift to myself that will unfold in the months to come.
I may not have big birthday celebrations with cake and presents, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the day.