*Activity Being Procrastinated: showering and getting dressed
*Music In My Head: Shapes of Things – The Yardbirds
*Tea: cold blueberry ’cause I’m too lazy to get up and make a new pot
*Books Being Read: Diary of a Bad Year – J.M. Coetzee
I was born on Mother’s Day – which I consider quite the thing to have done given that I’m the firstborn in my family. (You’re very welcome, Mum.) My parents tell me the story of my birth every year, and they seem quite pleased that we did this. My sisters think I’m a sleazeball who started upping the ante before the game officially began.
Sheila – 1
Sisters – not even at the starting line yet
Part of the birth story involves my father – having courteously waited some five or six hours (I was born at 1 a.m.) – calling his parents and being too hyped up to get out a clear sentence. My grandmother said, “Let me guess: she’s the most beautiful baby in the nursery.” My father was completely bewildered: “How did you know?”
As you can see from the photo, my father was running on pheromones and no sleep.
Being born on an official holiday means that people associate your birthday with the holiday: my best friend confessed to getting all het up late last Sunday evening before she connected with reality. I’ve already received several messages saying “Happy Belated Birthday”. People also do this with my daughter, who was born on Easter Sunday. She has it harder because Easter is such a moveable feast that the birthday wishes are often off by a month.
I do like having a birthday. Not the celebration part – I’m not exactly a party animal – but the official marking of the passage of time. I have always wanted to be older. No matter what age I was, I was waiting for more birthdays to go by. There was never any definite age to achieve, just “older”. Even though time is arbitrarily defined by man, there’s the natural aspect of time which just makes everything… better. (Feel free to use your analogy of choice here: wine, cheese, stories, wisdom, etc.)
I was thinking about this a few weeks ago when I realised the time was coming ’round on the guitar again. I believe I’m finally at the point where I’m no longer waiting to get older. Does this mean I’m there? And what was I waiting for, precisely? Was I waiting until I felt old? (Ah, that’s why I had kids!) Actually, I don’t really feel all that old. And I don’t look all that old, either: people tend to guess my age at ten years younger than I am.
Are “old” and “young” as arbitrary as our marking of time?
Of course, the day I was born was also a day of death for a lot of people. It’s a little unnerving to think that I share this man-marked date with James Connolly’s execution and the horrific earthquake in China. It’s also the day of King George VI’s coronation – not sure whether he considered that a day of re-birth or death. In any case, I’m glad to share the anniversary date with a lot of other people, whether they’re beginning, continuing or ending their life.
The marking of lives is one of those things that occupies my brain for large quantities of time. (In my defense, it’s a noble occupation and bus rides can be very long.) It began in earnest when my first child was born, doubled when my second child was born, and gets more complicated every time I add another birth or death to the front of my Bible. The Family Annals are so thick that the books are stashed in two banker’s boxes, and there are still things I’ve left out of them. But the fact is there are a lot of remarkable people in this world, and I think their lives should be remembered for a while. Others may have a lot to learn from all these people I think are absolutely freaking cool.
But I do have a certain amount of envy for those cultures – so-called “uncivilised” – where there are no calendars and time just goes on unmarked by anything but the usual changes. I wonder if we’ve burdened ourselves unnecessarily by forcing ourselves to honour births and deaths and marriages and all those other things we try to remember once a year. Did we think we’d forget it if we didn’t haul it to the front of our brains every time the earth went around the sun? Was it some attempt to ward off flood and famine by appeasing the gods?
Even if we scrapped the calendar now, I wouldn’t forget the important things. The people who are important to me are remembered on a regular basis, not just the anniversary of their arrival or departure. They come to me at strange times, arriving in my brain with a smell, a sound or an image. They stay for a while – sometimes only seconds, and sometimes weeks – until they’re ready to go.
In any case, today, and on many other random days, I thank my parents for creating me. Especially for creating my brain. You guys really could have done a better job with the thighs, though.