So many things have changed under the black cloud of Covid. Certainly birthday (or any) celebrations have altered dramatically. I feel especially badly for those who celebrated in the darkest months of March and April, when most people hunkered inside alone or only with very close family members. I feted my oldest son, a late March baby, with Stan’s Donuts delivered to his apartment door, and even that made me a little nervous. What if the carrier were a carrier? He sent a video of himself opening the box – I could almost smell the donuts from Connecticut. I ate many a Stan’s Donuts when I carried him for nine months in Los Angeles, so whatever he has become has a lot to do with those doughy delicacies that we walked up to Westwood to procure every Sunday. So, while the delivery seemed apropos, the ensuing FaceTime greeting felt hollow and lonely. I have been away from both boys on their birthdays before, but in those days, they’d go out to celebrate with friends so I felt happy for them. Not so now. The only consolation was that everyone is in the same boat as we kept repeating. No one was having much birthday, or any kind, of fun. At least my youngest, also an late March baby, was home in the fold, and we could surround him with food, family, and presents in person; we could hug him.
Here we are six months later, and while we roam a little more freely, we still do so cautiously, waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. I’m a Virgo, an autumn baby, a sapphire September child. The chill in the air thrills me and more often than not, fall actually begins on my birthday. That alone brings me joy. No more heat, humidity, or boob sweat. I can breathe again. My expectations for this year’s celebrations remained low for many reasons, the coronavirus constituting only one of them. Several close friends and family members are dealing with personal crises of their own, and so my birthday was hardly a priority. I managed my expectations and hoped mostly for a pretty day.
I got much more. Plans changed a few times to accommodate schedule fluctuations and unexpected obstacles, but the day dawned crystalline and pristine. I walked down to the gym (one of the obstacles being the resurfacing project that limited car use in our complex) and tread the mill for nearly an hour scrolling through the 200+ greetings I received from friends far and near, spanning decades and life phases. People may take issue with Facebook, but this wave of well-wishes soothed any loneliness I might have felt and reminded me just how very lucky I am to count so many wonderful people in so many countries as friends.
My boys picked me up and whisked me away to Overton’s on the water in Norwalk for an overstuffed, buttery lobster roll accompanied by very deeply fried onion rings (“good choice,” the cashier said when I ordered them). We sat at a red coated metal picnic table at the corner of an open deck overlooking the harbor. The sky could not have been any clearer, the temperature any more perfect, nor the company any more delicious. We sat and talked about James Joyce and Shakespeare, and art, and writing, and life while one particularly aggressive seagull perched on the nearby railing, railing at us to share our fare. A more chill egret surveyed the scene from a nearby piling, seemingly disinterested in our meal, and a downright indifferent cormorant sunned himself on a nearby dock. It was idyllic. They presented me with handmade gifts – a brown leather vintage YSL belt to display studded with small stones harvested from the Compo Beach shore that I stroll almost daily; the handwritten Claudius confession scene from Hamlet (one of my favorite). The thought put into these tokens filled me as full as the lobster roll, with fewer calories, less fat, and way more love.
I spent another hour outside with my sister on the bank of the Saugatuck; how fortunate are we to have access to so much shoreline and am I to be able to walk to it. She is a good friend as well as a good sister, and the time alone to talk was as much of a gift as the essential oil diffuser she gave me to bring sweet scents to my home.
I walked back home again in the sunshine, feeling so warmed by it and the simple but deeply satisfying day. Covid be damned: I am a very, very lucky old girl.