Willow posted that quote by the author Amelia Gray yesterday. Tonight, in the interminable part of the night, it is raining hard, pelting not the roof but the air conditioning units at our fifth floor windows, which approximates the sound Amelia Gray describes. My husband is long asleep. My daughter was up until late stirring lemon curd for the lemon meringue cupcakes she will take to school for one of her best friends' birthday today, the friend is born the same day I am, which means I am getting cupcakes too. She plans to wake early to do the meringue swirls. "If you leave egg white frosting out," she said, "it wants to turn back to egg whites. I have to make it fresh in the morning." It still fascinates me that she talks this way.
Today was supposed to be her senior skip day. For some reason the teachers at her school have been fighting to deny this right of passage, with letters to parents and threats of detention to seniors who skip. Finally, they got wise and scheduled a whole bunch of events for today. The one that is bringing my girl into school is the year-end performance by her theater kids, the ones she has been working with after school. "I love those kids," she said. "They wouldn't understand if I wasn't there to applaud them." So she is going in. But she has the first two periods free, so she is going in late, doing what she calls a modified skip, so she can make her meringue fresh and fluffy for her friend's birthday. Yes, mine too.
The problem with birthdays is we think the day should be somehow more special than other days, even though it is just another work day, another school day, full of the same mundane demands and people you interact with all day who you don't even bother to tell it's your birthday. The problem with birthdays is you look back and survey past ones, the good ones and the lost causes too, the years when you were in your prime and didn't understand how much you would miss those days later. The problem with birthdays is being up at 3:29 a.m., alone in the world, listening to the rain, brooding on the way life shrinks from its skin, the slow decline, the losses.
Reminds me of my mother quoting Shakespeare, inexactly I suspect. "Into each life, a little rain must fall," she would say serenely. Reminds me, too, of the positive psychology canon presently making the rounds in the pages of women's magazines, the one that says happiness is a choice, a simple decision to shift your perspective, to decide to see the gifts that are ours, rather than those other things we yearn for. A limber and unbreakable body. More whimsy. A different sort of brain chemistry. Tonight, I am choosing melancholy, I suppose, sinking into it and letting it be. I hope to make a different choice as the day goes on. Happy birthday, me.