happy birthday…and some thoughts on other moments to celebrate…

Today is my aunt’s birthday. For as long as I’ve known her, she has been a white-haired dynamo, celebrating milestones with adventures: hiking in the Himalayas, trips to China, winter camping. I don’t know where she is today – I didn’t think to ask about her plans when we last spoke, but with 76 years of great life experience, I suspect she’s chosen something that feels special to her, whether its one of those “ooh, wow” expeditions or simple quiet time with people she loves. But such days do put me in mind of anniversaries in general, and the question of what we commemorate. I do love birthdays, when the celebration feels like just the right thing to he or she with the birthday. But I also love the unexpected anniversaries, the ones that are more private, less predictable, and take a little explaining to others. My ex and I, though we separated a couple of years ago after decades of marriage, still wish each other “happy anniversary” on May 1st, the day when we, as bright-eyed 19 year olds, pledged to take care of each other. Which we have, with humor, and fortitude, and much learning, and lots of love. Still do, in the way of divorcing gently and cheering on each other’s separate, happy lives. That anniversary is one I will always happily acknowledge – we may not have been lifetime partners, but the affectionate, idealistic, brave jump we made together that day is one I will never regret. And one of my other favorite anniversaries is similarly a nod to a mysterious creative step into the unknown – I still (and may always) celebrate the day when I first arrived in the town I now live in, expecting merely to visit for a week, but never leaving, finding myself very quickly in a different stage of my writing life, falling into work that is deeply meaningful to me, and entering a streak of productivity which still inspires me when the creative blues drag me down. So today, happy birthday Aunt A, and in honor of adventures and anniversaries at large, a reminder for all: never forget to celebrate the moments of becoming who you are. And if that isn’t eating your (anniversary/birthday/alternate celebration) cake and having it too, I don’t know what is.

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