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How to survive a birthday

by Jan Wheatcroft

I stand (actually sit) here almost a week after my 82nd birthday.  I have to say that over and over, as the number sounds so large.  Eighty-two is older than 81, which was old enough.  I tried to stay back but nothing worked; none of my magic turned me around and so I moved forward with the day. I woke up to Zooming with my Some Crust Gang offering best wishes and humor and wisdom to begin the new year. Friendly faces giving support and friendship. 

At 10 a.m. my friend Chris came with our friend Gina to take me on a picnic to a regional park where I had never been. It was green and full of trees and water for fishing activities. There were picnic tables spread apart at correct social intervals. We carried baskets and bags down to one table. The park was nearly empty of people and it was very peaceful. Chris spread out a cloth covering and began to put out proper birthday party props: pointy hats, party favors, food, water bottles, plastic ware and all such necessities. This was way more than anything I would do on a picnic and it was great fun to watch as things materialized out of the bags and onto the table making a party scene. I relaxed into the celebratory event.  

We ate fat vegetarian sandwiches, chips and potato salad, toasted with bottled water and told stories. So far it didn’t feel so painful at all. A slight wind was blowing when the cake appeared (those bags were surprisingly full) and two candles were lit quite a few times until I could blow them out. It was a proper birthday celebration after all. We watched a few families walk to the fishing lake and others with kids ride down the hill on bikes. It was cool but peaceful, a nice place to be in a natural setting among huge pine trees with branches reaching out to gather everyone in together. Time passed quickly between mouthfuls of food and good talk with dear friends. Then home again to the familiarity of my own place with art supplies piled up on chairs and tables shouting for their time under my fingers. 

A lovely telephone call from London from dear friend Frances who remained behind me in the 81 era. I think she was pushing me out of the comfort of my younger nest into the chill of older age. A very funny e-mail from Hazel, my first teacher at the Skyros center in Greece on the Island of Skyros so many years past, which lifted me up, and a call from my oldest friend, Liz, (friends since we were 2 years old). She never forgets my birthday, ever. 

Messages and greetings from my family all who live far away. So lovely to hear from them. And then it was 6 p.m. and another Zoom, this time with the Stitch and Bitch group and more “Happy Birthday” greetings and lots of chat, prattle, and news of the week. A late dinner and bed.  In the morning I woke up to a new, more cheerful me. I had passed the border and made it through, ready to begin my new year with A DIET!!

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