I confess that when I first saw this picture prompt, I was elated. I was rushed with feelings from childhood birthday parties. I was fully prepared to spit out witty reminiscences of happy days of youth spent drawing with sidewalk chalk, balloon tosses, eating strawberry shortcake cupcakes, and visiting Disney World, but I digress. You see, my 36th birthday is next week.
I’ve heard often during the passing of another year, ‘it beats the alternative’, and indeed it does. However, this year is one year closer to leaving my mid-thirties. I’m not ready to leave them just yet, I’m not sure I’ve appreciated them well enough and I know I didn’t get to know them like I had hoped to. I thought we’d be better friends before we parted. I feel like we hardly know each other at all.
Oh, how I remember my 20s. We became close friends, there weren’t these broken years I’ve come to know in my 30s. My 20s were just my 20s, no early, mid, or late, just them and all their youthful glorious fun. Hell, it wasn’t until last year that I learned my 30s came with sections. I felt so ill prepared. I would have tried to hang onto the early ones a little longer and certainly would have mentally prepared for the mids.
All that’s left are the lates. At least I know now not to screw that up, too. Oh, I’ll be bitter for a minute, I’m a woman and that’s what we do – or that’s what I do any way. After the bitterness I’m going to get to know them, take them out on the town more often, compliment them and tell them they’re pretty. I might even try to give them some healthier options, slim them up a bit, maybe go on more walks. The lates and I are going to be besties. Plenty of movies, laughs, and slow dances, it’s what the lates are made for, I think. Though, I’m not really sure since I’ve yet to introduce myself, but I will and I hope they will be as grand as their predecessors.
All I know is I hope to slow down a bit and savor them like an old bottle of wine.
I was 12 years old and my brother was graduating from Navy basic training in San Diego, CA. I remember his going away party like it was yesterday. This party, though, was one for the books. We had a 3-floor split level home and one of my dad’s best friends brought a gas station sized American Flag to drape in front of our house. There were so many people, so many laughs, and so many tears. I don’t really remember the day he left, but I remember the sadness that overtook the party at the end when everyone wished him well.
Fast forward 8 weeks and my parents let me know we were going to be flying to California to watch him graduate and spend a week touring. California! This was the summer of 1990, people! Just after the movie, Pretty Woman was released. You could imagine my excitement to see Rodeo Drive! Of course, that was before I realized San Diego was not at all near Rodeo Drive. (My dad, being the awesome man he is, later got us to Beverly Hills and the Hollywood sign for a day anyway)
After his graduation and after I melted over the fact that I used the same bathroom in the USO building from the scene in Top Gun where Maverick followed Charlie, my dad wanted to visit Mexico. Wow! Mexico? Another country? This was quickly turning into the best vacation ever.
It wasn’t a long drive, I remember, and we ended up at what reminded me as the toll booths on our highways back in GA. We go in and Dad gets us to Tijuana, Mexico. Naturally, I had no way of knowing what to expect.
My dad wanted to go to the shops in the town to barter for items on which he knew he could get great deals. We ended up going down a small open tunnel that smelled of urine, rotting food, and God only knows what else. I was scared beyond any of my monsters under the bed imaginations I had up until now. I remember women and men off to the side-eyeing us. Luckily, my father stands 6’4″ so no one really talked to us. Except this little girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old and there she stood with her coffee can looking at us with these huge sad, brown eyes. My heart broke. This was the first time I saw real pain and real sorrow. She was hungry. She was poor. After much begging and pleading, I got my dad to give her some money.
The vacation ended up being very wonderful, but there are so many times in my life where I find myself looking back at that little girl in that tunnel, and for an instant, my problems seem so small.