In the days leading up to Smartmom’s 50th birthday, she wrote a variety of thoughts in her journal. OK, so Smartmom’s journal isn’t some time-worn book with a leather cover — it’s a blog read by hundreds of thousands of people a month. Still, where better to face the facts of life?
The blog posts were like a NASA countdown:
In 10 days, I will turn 50. It’s a milestone, all right. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On my birthday, Sen. Barack Obama will accept the Democratic nomination for president with 75,000 people in attendance. That’s kind of exciting. I haven’t figured out what I’m doing to celebrate the day. But I definitely want to be near a television.
With nine days to go, Smartmom used the Olympics as inspiration:
I’m not really dreading it anymore. I guess I’m settling into the idea of being 50. And 50 can mean whatever I want it to mean, right? I was inspired watching 41-year-old Dara Torres win the silver medal for the 50 mm freestyle. Afterwards a reporter asked what she would tell her 2-year-old daughter about this: “Don’t put an age limit on your dreams,” she said.
Easy for her to say: she’s only 41!
Still, no age limit on your dreams is a great message. There’s nothing any of us can do about the passage of time. But we can make our lives as full and interesting as possible.
With six more days until the big Five-Oh, Smartmom was feeling depressed. She wasn’t sure if it was because of her forthcoming birthday or because her father, who has colon cancer, had taken a turn for the worse:
I woke up early this morning to the cacophonous sound of garbage trucks with a hangover from last night’s Barrio margarita. Underslept, sad about my dad, missing Hepcat, who is in California, I am closing in on a big birthday.
An emotional roller coaster, the next day she felt differently:
I don’t feel depressed today. Something has lifted. And I am starting to think about what I want to do on the big day. Meditate, run around the park, drink a beer sitting outside at The Gate, hang out with friends, watch Obama’s acceptance speech, have a good dinner with Hepcat and the kids. These last gorgeous days of summer have me thinking about the busy fall ahead. There’s lots of writing to do. A new school for the Oh So Feisty One. Senior year in high school for Teen Spirit. Much to think about; much to do. So there is life after Aug. 28: Loads to organize and plan…
She waxed philosophical the next day.
Life gets more complex the older you are. There’s more to deal with. More to think about. One longs for the carefree days of one’s 20s. Trouble is: you never know how carefree you’ve got it until you don’t got it no more. And no matter what your age it’s always something.
Three days before her birthday, her father’s health declined even further.
Spending the day in the ER at Mt. Sinai Hospital with my dad waiting for a room brings up a lot of thoughts about life, death and everything in between. Small moments of kindness mean everything. They’re enough to make you cry. Life feels heavy, hard, murky and dark. One finds illumination where one can.
Two days before, she could barely utter the inevitable number:
I feel like screaming: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Smartmom liked being 49. Hell, she liked being 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48. The 40s were her best decade.
She’ll have to practice saying it: “I’m f—, I’m fi—, I’m fif—, I’m fift—, I’m fifteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
Now say it a bunch of times fast: Fifty fifty fifty fifty fifty fifty fifty fifty fifty fifty fifty.
If you say it enough times it loses all meaning. Just a sound, two syllables, a word. Meaningless. It’s meaningless.
With one day left, a nice note from a friend sustains her:
I completely get your apprehension about turning 50. For me, it came with a recognition that I’m no longer young. That was no surprise, but somehow shocking nonetheless. But flipside is: We are no longer young. We have accumlulated experience, history, friends, children and spouses. We’ve made choices and have lives — full and engaging lives. If we continue to embrace our lives (the good and the bad) with mettle and passion, we will not get any younger, but we will enjoy getting older and maybe even a bit wiser.
The day of her birthday was a difficult one but there were distinct bright spots. Her father rallied for about an hour when an old friend, an advertising legend like her dad, came by and they talked about horse racing at Saratoga, Belmont and elsewhere, advertising back in the day (the “Mad Men” 1960s), Times Square, Coney Island and books.
Getting into the subway on 96th Street, Smartmom ran into Opera Diva, her best friend from high school, and tried to convince her to come out to Brooklyn, where mutual friend, Best and Oldest, was waiting with Diaper Diva, Hepcat, OSFO, Divorce Diva and Warm and Funny with champagne and a huge, delicious selection of sushi.
That night, surrounded by wonderful friends, a generous amount of wine, sushi, an unusually delicious chocolate cake made by Best and Oldest’s daughter and much great friendship and conversation, Smartmom gave in and accepted it.
“I’m 50,” she said — and this time, surrounded by friends and family, finally it didn’t sound that bad.