Today is my 46th birthday. (As well as the birthday of Barry Manilow, M.C. Escher, Igor Stravinsky, my friend Nicolle's mother and, if rumor is correct, Jesus.) I post this not so I can solicit birthday wishes --though those are always nice to receive-- but because in the past few years, birthdays have become an odd and reflective experience for me. Definitely of the love/hate variety. Like any woman approaching a (ahem) certain age, I’m ambivalent about marking the passage of time. And yet at the same time, a big part of me never expected to live this long. My mother was 42 when she died, and until I turned 43, I could never imagine myself outliving her. Every year, every month, every day since 42 has been a gift.
How have I passed today? Well, by this point a birthday on a weekday is just another work day, and that’s pretty much what this has been. Took Maya to the dentist this morning, stopped at the mall for lunch and to buy a Father’s Day gift for Uzi, picked up Eden from the bus stop, dropped both kids at Uzi’s office, and hoofed it over to Culver City for the faculty meeting that kicks off the ten-day Antioch MFA residency. I felt completely dorky telling anyone it was my birthday, so I didn’t mention it. Buy my two kids think that having to work on one’s birthday is an absolute crime against humanity, and they’re cooking up something special for tonight. I know this because when I called home to say I was on my way, there was an unnaturally joyous, “Wow! Mom! Great!” and then a request to meet them at Topanga State Beach at exactly 6:40 p.m. instead.
It was only 5:15 when I called, so I’ve stopped in Venice at what used to be the Novel Café (and now looks the same but has an entirely different name) for a coffee and macaroon to pass the time. I got the smart idea to put some cinnamon in my coffee but the shaker released a whole lot of cinnamon all at once, so now I’m drinking a cup of cinnamon with coffee. It’s not bad, actually. Might even become an annual birthday drink, who knows?
I’m sitting at a round tiled table right in the window like a writer on display. Just outside the window two beach dudes are sitting on wicker chairs talking to everyone who passes by. One of them is wearing a pirate’s hat. The other looks like Thomas Hayden Guest with dreadlocks. I’m pretty sure it isn’t Thomas Hayden Guest with dreadlocks. He also has some pretty gnarly tattoos up both arms that look like a cross between Chinese symbols and death-metal threats. People are biking past, walking home from work, driving by with Lakers flags stuck to the window frames of their cars. It’s like a big, colorful celebration of life at 6 p.m. on a bright Thursday evening, and reminds me of when I lived on Washington Square and used to sit outside on the brownstone steps and watch the whole world go by.
I’ve got another twenty minutes before I need to get back in the car and find out what’s waiting at the beach. With Maya in charge, it could be anything at all. It’s so rare to have twenty completely uncalled for minutes these days, I’m not really sure how to spend them. Or actually, I do. It’s the novel café. And I’m supposed to be writing my first novel. So here goes. Twenty minutes. Birthday pages. Let’s go.