By Louise Ure
I turned sixty this weekend and had a lovely time doing it.
My sister and her boyfriend came up from Carmel and we ate and drank our way across the San Francisco summer day. Lots of other friends wrote, called, texted, dropped by during the day or slid improbably wonderful gifts through the mail slot.
All in all, a great way to grow older.
I’ve never worried overmuch about birthdays. In fact, I’ve been saying I’m sixty for several years now, just to encourage compliments. (If you tell someone you’re 56 or 57, you can see the thought bubble above their head: “And you look every inch of it.” If you tell them a few years early that you are sixty, they are more likely to say: “God, you look good for sixty.”) I am shameless in my pursuit of the empty compliment.
In my family, every child got exactly what he wanted to eat on his birthday, and each year I would ask my mother for corned beef and cabbage, followed by strawberry shortcake. It would probably still be my “Last Night Before Execution” meal. It wasn’t so easy to get corned beef in July back in those days. That was a meat offered only around St. Patrick’s Day. She would be brining and corning all day long, just to fulfill my wishes.
In later decades, no mater where I lived, the only other constant on my birthday was a phone call from my brother Jim and his family, singing “Happy Birthday” in four-part harmony into a speaker phone. Whether I was in Singapore or Sydney, Paris or Seattle, they figured out how to find me. And there was no more perfect sound.
Bruce and I never really had a birthday ritual except for the roses. Each year he would carpet the house in red roses. Dozens and dozens, all of the same hue. I could have slept on a mattress of rose petals for a week. This year, my friend Jessie fulfilled that role, and brought the most beautiful long stem roses in a red so lush and deep that I knew she’d been channeling Bruce with the purchase.
One of my favorite birthdays might have been my 30th. I was single. A bit wild. And certainly ready to party. A group of friends from the ad agency took me out to a country and western bar for a night of drinking and dancing. At some point, my friend Tina approached the table where I sat, pulling a sinewy young cowboy by the elbow. Black hat. Plate-sized silver belt buckle. Blue eyes as clear as a madman’s.
“This is Jake. He’s your birthday present.” (I truly don’t remember his name. It was one syllable, and ended with a hard “K” sound. Jake. Mike. Rick.)
Oh Lord. The answer to my newly-30-year old prayer. I wanted to eat him up and blow him out like a birthday cake. Cake. Maybe that was his name. In any case, he was perhaps my best birthday present ever.
So here it is Tuesday. Two days post B-day celebration and I’m still celebrating. My sister is still visiting. Two Aussie buddies are in town. I had a gorgeous evening with my foster kids and their entourages. I’m still throwing the party right between my eyes.
How about you, ‘Rati? What was your favorite birthday of all time? Or your favorite present? Or what would it be if you were creating it for yourself?