Birthday #32

God is watering the earth, I type in semi-darkness. The lamp emits hushed light, and a nutmeg-ylang ylang candle glows on my desk. The serene atomosphere is intentional, hopefully to keep Milo asleep in his cage behind me.

Thanksgiving was hilarious, specifically my Mom and her three sisters in the kitchen, interrupting their tasks to tease each other and laugh at everything. Aunt Nancy’s son and his wife and baby dropped by; it was my first time to meet this cousin and he reminds me of my brother, strikingly, even more so than Dermot Mulroney. My Mom escaped a turkey fiasco, no thanks to Butterball whose help line ends at 7:00 pm - not helpful to night owls. God intervened and we feasted on turkey and dressing along with ham, Aunt Nancy’s sweet potato soufflee, Aunt Amy’s dirty rice, mashed potatoes, cousin Madison’s rum cake, my Mom’s Chex mix and raspberry-garlic-cheese dip, Aunt Denise’s jalapenos stuffed with feta cheese and wrapped in bacon, green beans, Aunt Pat's green Jell-O salad, my buttermilk pies and pumpkin pie dip, coffee, of course, and beer for the men watching an endless cycle of football games. It was all a funny, sleepy blur for me since Mamacita kept me up ‘til 4:00 am the night before fretting over the thawing turkey while we talked and laughed ourselves.

Thanksgiving and my birthday are always tangled into an annual, blissful celebration as the two days are nestled close on the calendar. It works for me because I am assured quality family time with the ones who raised me and love me still. This year was another good one starting with Mexican food at Abuelo's and a cornucopia from my parents: excellent books, movies, a CD, Mary Jane-style striped socks, and Post-it notes. Back in Houston, John and I met friends for Indian food and afterwards just the two of us explored a “new” coffee shop - Agora. We ordered cappuccinos, traipsed up the steep stairs, and snatched a table near the rustic wood railing to spy on the bar and patrons below. Well-worn magazines and art books were scattered here and there, pungent Glade candles graced the tables. I nibbled what I thought was a piece of biscotti only to discover a cube of brown sugar intended for stirring into my cup. We dipped our biscotti, Johnny laughed that I looked as young as all the hipsters, and we headed back home. He gave me a soft, white robe for morning paper-reading and coffee-sipping; an artistic rendering of the Psalms; and the Neko Case-Austin City Limits DVD. My Mom-in-law sent me a beautiful elegant necklace. Aunt Denise gave me a subscription to The American Poetry Review much to my delight. I received sweet paper and electronic cards as well as other fun gifts from family and friends.

I am blessed by God, the giver of life, but not due to a stack of birthday gifts. My birthday fell on Sunday, yesterday, the Sabbath, a day set aside to worship Jesus. I purchased the newspaper from Robert, who last week asked, “Are you going to Church? Would you pray for me?” I listened to a Parker Posey interview on NPR. I stepped foot in the Church’s door a tad late, but just in time to watch Confirmations by the bishop and our baby Godson bounce to the music - he loves to dance. I noticed hymn #766 - the tune by Clark Kimberling, lyrics by St. David - dated 1974 thus 32 years old just like me. I sat near my familiar pew companion, St. Catherine of Alexandria by her golden wheel; frozen, reverent, inside stained glass.

While Johnny scooted off to a rehearsal, I enjoyed Indian food leftovers at home. I looked down at my clothes - black/white blouse and black skirt - for once not wearing a T-shirt, and in a picture mood. I was even wearing earrings and that pretty necklace from John’s Mom. I grabbed the camera in one hand, Milo in the other, and wrestled with the flash and focus settings as he wriggled and whined. I did not capture fashion or focus, and I have an arm full of battle scars to prove it:

I opened an e-mail from The Writer's Almanac yesterday; along with the daily poem I discovered that I share my birthday with Marilynne Robinson (author of Gilead). I took it as a divine sign that one day in my 40's or 50's I will be some type of [professional] writer. I also share my birthday with a friend who is dying of cancer and mentally ill. Until a few days ago, thoughts of my birthday produced depression as I thought of her, our troubled relationship, and her silent replies to my cards and voice mails. Yet as I drove home from Church, God dropped another parcel into my lap, wrapped in lavender grace with a matte finish, tied up with raffia. My friend is troubled and suffering, and she is a Christian. Now in hospice, her death is imminent, but soon she will stand in Heaven and see Jesus, and surely fall at His feet. No more disease will invade her body or brain. When I see her again, when phones and the postal system are irrelevant, I'll hug her neck and we will understand each other. We will have the mind of Christ; both of our fallible noggins will think rightly and we will throw our heads back and laugh, just like we did a decade ago celebrating our birthdays in my barrio apartment. And in fact, that great day will be the pinnacle to every Thanksgiving and birthday of my hopefully long life. I try to picture it while kneeling for Communion each Sunday. I see Jesus, everyone I love and all the saints from every culture, a long, grand table - the Lord's Table - a verifiable feast, more wine than the wedding in Cana, the table adorned to perfection. Until then, I flip through Domino magazine, ponder how to decorate our Christmas Day table, thank the Lord for this life, and the life to come. Amen.


Christine said...

I was a whiny baby on my birthday, and this post put me right in my place. Thank you. It was beautiful. And I am so thankful God made you!

March to the Sea said...

happy belated birthday.

Jenni said...

Stine, I love sharing a November birthday month with you, and I'm grateful God made you, too.

Thanks, March!

Jenni's Mom said...

Happy Birthday, (baby) Jenni. I am blessed to be your mama. Thanks be to God.

Kimberly said...

Happy belated birthday, Jenni! I loved your post, as usual.

We have only recently begun to get to know one another, but I am so thankful to be able to call you friend!