Today’s my birthday. I’m thirty-three.
I’m thinking about the year, how I’ve stumbled, how I’ve grown and changed.
I’m thinking about Bridget Jones, tapping on a little bobble head as she gave her day’s accounting in cigarettes, alcohol units, and age (thirty-three). I’m thinking ruefully about how old she seemed to me when I saw the movie and read the book.
I’m thinking about how I decided to throw my hat into the dating ring again, and how happy I am to have found someone who makes me laugh and who I love. I make him laugh, and he loves me.
I’m thinking about how lucky I am to have the friends I have, friends who have really come through for me this past year. I’ve come through for them too.
I’m thinking about my family, and I’m grateful for them. My parents called me this morning to sing me “Happy Birthday,” telling me how happy they are to have me as a daughter. I’m thinking about my sister and brother-in-law who invited me to visit them in Italy, giving me the best vacation of my life.
I’m thinking about the exhilaration I felt while wandering through the streets of Rome this past spring, remembering that the world is much bigger than me and still small at the same time, remembering that this seeming contradiction is the miracle that is life on this Earth. Remember this, I told myself, writing it in my journal in a park overlooking the ruins Coliseum and the Forum.
I’m thinking about how lucky I am to be alive.
I’m thinking about these things, evaluating my life up to this point.
But I’m also thinking about my twenty-eighth birthday.
I awoke that morning to a beautiful day. I love it when my birthday is warm and sunny. I had been visiting my parents in Laconia, and I had gone to my pottery class there the night before. My pottery class had thrown me a little party, and my parents had made me a special breakfast that morning. I was set to have dinner and drinks with my friends that night. I had a job that I loved, and overall, I was happy. I had listened to NPR on the forty-five minute drive to Portsmouth and had parked my car just before 9:00. The news was filled with the usual stuff of the day, nothing terribly exciting. I bounced along on my way to the office, smiling at people, glad that it was my birthday.
The phone was ringing when I unlocked the door to the office. It was my boss’s father, calling to tell my boss that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. In the minutes and hours that followed, happiness evaporated, replaced by horror and an overwhelming sadness.
And so, in addition to all of these little things about my life, I’m also thinking about the final, terrifying moments of all those people who died that day. I’m thinking of the images of those people who survived, covered in ashes, trying to comprehend what had just happened as they dug desperately through the ruins, or wandered home in a daze. I’m remembering a former coworker who had left New York after she had to climb out of the New York subway system, one stop away from the World Trade Center, and make her way uncomprehending, crying, her feet bleeding, home to a husband who thought she was dead. She had no idea what had happened until after he’d found her and carried her home. I’m thinking of her sobbing as she told me this, nearly a year later, having never told anyone the story before.
I’m thinking about the horror that has followed that day, and the perversion of that suffering used as an excuse for political domination and violence.
I’m thinking about how the world has changed, and how many of those changes break my heart.
I’m thinking about how the world is both bigger than me and smaller than I imagine. When I checked the weather last week, the forecast was for rain on my birthday. I awoke instead to a bright and beautiful day. I could see the moon in the cloudless blue from my skylight. The leaves are still green, though some of them are turning red and gold. The air smells clean. I’ve made some coffee, and I’m going to sit in my comfy chair and reflect.
My birthday wish is for peace.