Birthdays and New Beginnings


Summer is supposed to be a time of slowing down… of smelling the roses… of kicking your feet up… taking a load off… resting and relaxing… of carpe diem… or not. For me, the first two months of summer are akin to the dreaded “holidays” endured annually from late November through Jan 1st.

By my approximation, June and July hold 81% of the celebratory activities that I am required to facilitate and/or attend over the course of a whole year. They’re brimming  with birthdays, anniversaries and activities. This year, over the course of these 61 days, Mom turned 92, my oldest daughter turned 28, I turn 60, and 50 Shades of Aging turns 1. That, my friends, is a lot of turning.

Each anniversary holds the promise of a new beginning with endless possibility, not all of it so good.  

My personal favorite of the turnings is the first anniversary of 50 Shades of Aging, launched last July. Aside from being cathartic, writing for 50 Shades has been a game changer in my personal relationship with Mom; each post like a journal entry… some borne from admiration and others - from frustration. But always ending with an awareness about life and/or Mom that I didn’t have when my fingers first hit the keys.

Were it not for 50 Shades, I probably wouldn’t take 8-10 hours, once or twice a week, to think about me and Mom and our relationship… and then write about it… and then edit it… and then publish it. I’d just go about my days dispensing garden variety caretaking efforts… dinners, doctor appointments, housekeeping, banking - the tangible stuff. Thoughts of the actual recipient (Mom) would likely be fleeting and a mundane routine would result. Writing has kept caretaking fresh.

The first anniversary of anything is celebrated with hope and an anticipation of continuation, so, Happy Birthday to 50 Shades of Aging! I look forward to working with (an on) you for many years to come!

In June, my oldest daughter, Rachael, turned 28. In and of itself, this doesn’t sound like a milestone, but when I put it in the context of my own life (which, sigh, I always do with my daughters), 28 is an important year. It’s the beginning of the family years

I understand that statistically, Millennials are holding off on (or completely sidestepping) the ho-hum institutions of marriage and babies, but in reality, and by virtue of sporting a uterus, 28 is the time to “shit or get off the pot” (as Mom likes to say). It’s the time to start thinking about, and acting upon, nature. It signals the beginning of a different version of life. So, Happy Birthday to Rachael and all the other young females out there fantasizing about family and focusing on fertility.

The month of July brings me my very own beginning… the start of my “Golden Years” decade – thusly called to reflect the happy golden attractiveness of retirement. Mostly (and honestly) it will be the decade of Husband’s retirement more than my own, but I’m sure I’ll reap some vicarious benefits.

Clearly, turning 60 is different than turning 50. For most women, it’s the beginning of the end of menopause… the time when, sadly, our estrogen leaves our bodies and a gravitational downward pull ensues. Offsetting these (horrific) physical changes is a sense of relative calm that seems to come with gentle aging. My edges are softening (… prays my family…) and my perspective is shifting in a more accepting direction. The “bigger picture” is becoming clearer, and my real (and imagined) time pressures feel less pressing; all good stuff that might be worth the massive loss of estrogen. So, Happy Birthday Emily, and welcome to the beginning of your final act!  

And what is a 50 Shades post without mention of Mom who started her 93rd year on June 25th? She likes to highlight that a birthday marks the end of the prior year she’s already lived through. Mom’s reached that age where the possibility of being an honored centenarian is just within reach, so beginning her 93rd year is more impressive than, say, turning 92. I get it… No longer the consolation prize that Willard Scott hands out to wicked-old-people-who-reach-100, Centenarian Status is de rigueur… everyone’s doing it - and Mom wants in.  

Celebrating the beginning of Mom's 93rd year with family ~ Mom's the fashionable one in the blue and white stripes

Celebrating the beginning of Mom's 93rd year with family ~ Mom's the fashionable one in the blue and white stripes


Clearly, 93 sounds more like an ending than a beginning, but Mom is a woman of faith… a woman who believes that there is “something more”. She’s also a glass-half-full type who finds the joy in just about everything. She’s not afraid of her ending because she firmly believes it will be the beginning of something wonderful… the beginning of a never ending life to be shared with all the people she’s ever loved and lost… another place to spread her distinguished brand of sunshine. Happy Birthday Mom!

With the heavy lifting of June and July complete, I can sit back and enjoy the rest of my lazy summer… No more birthdays, anniversaries, company, or work insanity on the immediate horizon… I can finally work in the garden with Mom… go to the beach with girlfriends… do a little kayaking… maybe hike a nature trail with Husband… take an unscheduled trip to Target… try cooking pizza on the grill…   

Oh, crap…

I forgot about the last week of July when my entire immediate (and growing) family will gather at our house on the Cape for a week of fun and frolic… When we’ll cram 13 people of various ages and sizes into a 3 bedroom home (thank God for the garage ‘apartment’)… When I’ll make sandwiches and pack coolers for the crew every day… When I’ll prepare dinner for said crew nightly… When I’ll never see 8 hours of sleep because the neighbors love cocktails and firecrackers – together.

Hmmm… This may be a good time to remember that I just turned 60 and now have softening edges,  a more accepting perspective, and am less pressed with time pressures. It will be an opportunity to practice my gently aging ass off.

Emily GaffneyComment