It's nice having a springtime birthday. After having been hunkered down while the earth rests from last year's summer exuberance, we emerge from the monochrome months together – the Earth and I – ready for a new season of activity and color.
Just this week, the crocuses bloomed on my block. Already, there are buds on some tree branches and before long, daffodils and tulips will burst forth. It has happened this way all my life – as though Earth is reborn just for me, just in time for the annual celebration of my arrival - 68 years ago in today's case.
Birthday parties are mostly the province of children – party hats, games and cake – and on one hand it seems silly, toward the end of one's seventh decade, to make anything special of another year's passage. But for about 50 of those years, whatever else I've done to mark the day, I have made room for some private, quiet time to look at where I've been for the past year, what's changed, what hasn't and perhaps make a mental note or two about what's next.
There are two big changes this year. The first is a new president – almost the polar opposite of the previous one – who is smart, thoughtful and already working hard to lead us out of the darkness of the past eight years.
The second change, our collective economic abyss, is more personal and, as is true for so many, it has altered my plans. I know for certain that my choice of Portland, Maine to live out my late years was a mistake. Since I can't afford New York City, I'd rather be in that other Portland, in Oregon. That's unlikely in the near future due to the loss of so much of my savings and the slump in home sales. Nevertheless, I'll do some fix-up and painting this spring in anticipation of figuring out how to make the move.
Other than that decision, there have been no momentous personal changes, so I decided to look way, way back this year. I dug out my baby book which I doubt I've opened in 10 or 15 years. How good of parents to keep such a record – it's filled with stuff about yourself of which you have no memory. Here are the basic facts of my birth recorded, apparently, by the hospital. (My birth surname was Haist.)
There is no first name yet. My mother, so the story goes, was certain I was a boy (no tests in those days for the sex of babies) and intended to name me Gregory Michael. She was so surprised to have produced a girl that it took her three weeks to think up a name.
In 1941, as now, the hospital attached a wristband to “Babe Haist,” including the doctor's name so they wouldn't confuse me with some other baby. Nowadays, wristbands are made of plastic; 68 years ago, they were made of cloth and my mother saved it.
My mother also made a notation that I had “a lot of dark hair” and preserved in an envelope is this lock of it. Do people still do this?
According to my mother's notes, my first word was “pretty” when I was nine months old, and I was walking – at one year and two months – four months before I said “mama.” That must have irritated her.
At about the same time, August 1942, there is another note: “Says 'hello' and 'bye-bye' to everyone on the street and stops to talk to everybody.”
And she hasn't stopped talking since except these days, at least it's more often silent – in print on this blog – which I'm certain my mother, if she were here, would be grateful for. I can still hear her saying repeatedly, “Ronni, give your brother a chance to talk.”
As I grew older, my mother asked each year what I wanted to do for my birthday. It was always the same: an outdoor birthday party in the back yard, and my mother always agreed with the caveat, “if it doesn't rain.” It always rained and some things never change; it's raining today.
But that's the irony, isn't it. Without spring rains, the Earth and I would not celebrate our rebirth together.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz recounts another birth in The Day Chris was Born.]