Carol Jane Remsburg
I turned 40 the first of this month. Yes, 40. Of course this means I was born on July 1st, 1960. A terrible admission some women would think, but it really isn't. I was blessed with black crepe paper, grim reaper balloons, and a 40th pin proclaiming the milestone along with a luncheon at work. I also was gifted with a lovely dinner by the same friend who had wreathed my workstation in blackness on the anniversary of this date. However for me, the number of years has never mattered. It's the memories that each decade of birth has brought me that are the true gift.
My earliest memories were of a pink galley kitchen, a piano bench, and the card table draped with a sheet under which my older sisters played house in out on the porch while I wasn't allowed. Time was a pain and life was a drag. Nothing was fun. Being the youngest child, I was forever either 'in the way' or 'a nuisance.' Everyone knew more than I did and every hurdle I did manage seemed met with wilted, tired silence rather than applause. I learned to try harder. I became a pleaser, a bratty little pleaser, but a pleaser nonetheless.
When I turned 10 years old, it was the biggest event of my life to date. I was a whole decade old. It was a day that dreams are made of. It was during one of those summers where I spent several weeks at a stretch with both sets of my grandparents. It also happened to coincide with my birthday. It would be the first without my parents in attendance.
The day dawned with song of bird and cicada. Even though the dew was wet as I exited the tent in my grandmother's back yard, it was going to be a firecracker of a day. It was MY DAY and I owned it.
I fished in the morning and explored the rural countryside in the afternoon. I played with the many dogs and fed the chickens. My grandmother was planning a special dinner with all my favorite foods. Later there would be her homemade cake and ice cream.
In the late afternoon, I spent an hour simply swaying in the old swing, the one with the long ropes attached high up in the ancient maple tree. The shade was tremendous. I remember looking up into the branches of the tree and wondering how on earth anyone could have tied those ropes. Grandmom's trees where enormous. I'd never seen anything like her three maple trees. They towered so tall and branched out far enough to blot the sun. I felt safe and sheltered beneath them. As only a ten year old can, I felt they spoke to me and cared for me. They were special which made me feel special too.
After dinner and cake, I was whisked away by my other grandmother and into the small town where she lived. They were having the fireman's carnival. It was right across the street from where she lived. Oh, the rides were heavenly, the carny noise a delight. All the locals knew it was my birthday and I proclaimed it so.
Dizzy with joy, we slowly walked home once my grandmother's endless coin purse was empty. Once home we, again, had ice cream while we relaxed in the cool comfort of her air-conditioned house. That was a treat because my own home wasn't air-conditioned—except for Mom and Dad's room where we could only chill out on the hottest and muggiest of nights. A more perfect day couldn't be constructed.
Then another decade passed by much swifter than the one before it. My school days were swept away and I was legally an adult. By then I was pretty good at playing an adult rather than being one. I still viewed things in black and white. I allowed little room for gray areas or pain.
Still, on my twentieth birthday, I felt a surge. I had now become two decades old. At that date I could look back on my life and feel few regrets. I knew that soon I would marry the man I loved and we would make a home together. My day job was easy, money was tight, but each day was filled with the brilliance that only the young can give it. I felt poised on the brink of the future.
Ten more years elapsed. They were busy, productive, and painful years. I endured much in the way of personal loss and horrors while achieving personal growth. The cost of those years was steep. The brilliance of twenty had been tarnished, but I was set to buffing and polishing it away. The richness to be had in life and with age was work, but this richness wasn't of the coin variety.
The day I turned thirty I'll never forget. I was very pregnant with the only child I was to have. I recall sitting poolside with my sister and ceaselessly rubbing my pronounced belly. I was thirty. My child and I would be thirty years apart in age. I cringed a bit. I hoped that I would be up to the task of motherhood and would at least do a fair job of it. Fear flared, but I quelled it down to a manageable level. I recall wishing for what attributes my child would have. All my wishes were granted. You couldn't get a better birthday wish.
Once my little Erin arrived, only two short months later, the calendar zipped like it does in the movies. We went from colic to training pants, from crawling to running, from jumbled words to filibusters—all in no time flat. Everything was busy and exhausting. Life stands still for no one. There was work, the child, the husband, the house, and the bills. Everything and everyone kept up a continual clamor. There was no Calgon to take me away. The tub with bubbles and some candlelight helped on those rare occasions that it was achieved, but it didn't work like it does in the television commercials. I kept hoping though.
It was during this second decade of married life that I discovered how lucky I had been. I won't say I'd ever been smart or intelligent about relationships; you can't be when you fall in love at eighteen. Yet at eighteen, we think we do know everything and I was smug about it. I simply 'got lucky.' I won't say my hubby is an angel or a god, but he's pretty terrific even with all of his foibles. I've a few of my own, so it all works out in the wash.
On my fortieth birthday, it was a Saturday. I wanted so much to cram everything in during that space of 24-hours I knew it was simply impossible. I was feeling quite childish about it. There was the house to clean, the yard work to do, the shopping to get done, and all the rest. I had to settle for picking 'one' that I could get finished without getting grouchy. I opted for the shopping because my little one was born to shop. We had many stops before us and we dived in. The day worked out well even though I suffered slight pangs of 'I'm not perfect' later in the afternoon when I still didn't finish my cleaning or my yard work. Sigh . . . SuperWoman, I'm not.
So now as I look ahead into the future, I know that by the time I reach my next decade, my daughter will have grown into a quasi-adult. I know that life is going to become even more demanding as my energy resources lag. L'Oreal and I aren't even acquaintances any more, we are fast friends. Yet, none of that bothers me. I am blissfully happy with my husband, my daughter, and our little home. I'm sure we'll weather some frightful storms ahead, but life is good. No, life is better than that. It's such a wonderful gift no matter if it rains or it shines. We shouldn't take the time to reflect only on each decade of our birth, but to marvel at it every day.