A BEAUTIFUL BIRTHDAY
I have a unique inner circle of friends who have become my alter family. Besides my Aunt who lives about an hour away, I really don’t have any family in close proximity. My son has an enormous family on my former husband’s side, but in my house, it is up to me to create the noise and bustle of family and I have figured it out.
Family is a loaded cocktail; you get who you get. I am slightly envious of my friends who have these loud and in your face family members who move and slither around each other sometimes happily and sometimes in a way that makes my head spin. As I compare to my own family, their conversations are always forgiving; my family on my mother’s side anyway always had someone not speaking to someone. Forever. Done. On my father’s side, it is quite different. I am much closer to them and the leader of its pack, my Grandfather. They all live south of me though, between DC and Florida, so this makes for a lot less family dinners and get togethers.
Gatherings and get togethers have become a necessary and intuitive need for me. And unlike family, you get a chance to choose who to surround yourself with. As I enter the seventh year of my relationship with my partner, we have not only blended our families, successfully I might add, but also our close friendships. The mingling and marrying, so to speak, of couples between us has created an extended family who has bonded in a way essentially because we have chosen each other. The energy exchange between friends is uplifting and joyous when the connection has the sparks of great conversation, comfort in silence over eating and just simply being present in each other’s company. We have found a rhythm of friends who are the go to group for many dinners at each other’s homes and I count on them immensely for support and love as any chosen extended family provides. Grateful for their contribution in my life. Missing three of the usual group called the Octet, now the Septup as one couple has become divorced, we haven’t missed a beat. After all, we are not living in the fifties and sixties when couples had to mingle with couples and single woman were auto ejected. There are some other couples who are in my direct inner circle and have cross pollinated within this original octet now septet too and they all easily connect. They have similar travel experiences, life outlooks and approaches to generosity and altruism. What comes of this is a connection of healthy dialogue about our children, the natural events of our lives and current events.
One of these friends had for his birthday a few years back an idea to give each of us a birthday gift for his own birthday. He had thoughtfully given us each a piece of artwork from his collection of photographs and we were all really touched. This idea though not an expectation at birthdays has taken on some momentum. We have all realized as we are gaining years, what do we need, but love and connection. Connection is the core driver of these gatherings and my birthday was a cause for yet another get together last night. Missing were three of the original group, and they were totally missed, but added were four of the cross pollinators who have previously met at other times at my home.
My plan was to celebrate by taking us to Second Story Theatre in Warren, RI, but first dinner at their new restaurant, UNION, a totally apropos name for our tribe last evening. It is risky trying a new restaurant before a play as it could have gone south if the dining hadn’t been anything more than stellar. It was more than stellar as we plowed though dish after dish each enjoying tasting from each other’s plates. The service was impeccable, the meal was creative and I had been inspired to give them each a gift in honor of my birthday. What better way to feed my energy and core then to watch seven other grownups open up presents like it was Christmas (or Hanukkah in my case). Besides my famous Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce (yes ML, I have some for you and CL, fear not), I decided to share a ritual that has become part of the fabric of my relationship with Michael C. It may seem corny to some, but it has proven to be grounding and connecting over the years between us. Reading to each other. Sometimes it is an article in the newpaper, but more often it is a deliberate passage in a book about nutrition, relationship, or love and connection. Often this reading between us has been a catalyst for discussion about something that may need talking about or some intimate thought that pops up from the read. I would say of the many parts of our relationship, this of all is one of my favorites because it offers a way to communicate other than the traditional ‘let’s sit down and talk’ kind. Reading to each other has been a way to navigate potential issues before they turn into resentments, a way to communicate without it turning into direct confrontation and also a way to share interests through reading choices, taking our relationship to a much deeper understanding. Reading to each other is communal. It is a way to be present without the phone and the distractions of the daily grind. I can’t imagine doing this with my former husband, he wouldn’t have likely thought much about the possibilities of the result, but I am sure happy I am with someone who came up with the idea let alone is open to continuing the spontaneity of the ritual.
Last night I gave each of my friends a book of poems by one of most favorite poets, Mary Oliver, who has a vast collection of books to choose from. The first time I ever heard a Mary Oliver poem was at a meditation class that my Rabbi did. Her prose and the layers of nature wrapped in words brought me to my knees. Like a prayer that has the ability to move my heart, her poetry got my attention and I have read her poems frequently to center myself if I feel like I need some enlightenment. I chose a book for each person based on a poem I saw in the book that uniquely reminded me of them. I gave one to each hopeful that they would have the same joy alone and with each other as the book as their own connector and reminder to stay tuned.
From the food, the play, (once again, Ed Shea gets my attention, Talley’s Folly, by Lanford Wilson) and the camaraderie and comfort shared between friends made my 53rd birthday a gift that keeps on giving way beyond the evening.Happy to have made it, may each year be the gift it has become in so many ways.
Why I Wake Early
“Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety —
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.”