I hated all my birthdays since my teen years not because I disliked getting old but because each passing year marks a new distance of time from when everything was innocent and my friends were alive. Something changed in my forties. I started acknowledging the day, the new wrinkles, and even the new distance that I have to hold my phone in order to read texts because I don’t yet believe that I need reading glasses. I mean, I still have some arm extension left. Each time I go to dye my hair, I notice that my roots are greyer than ever. It makes me smile. No, really. I made it!
|Mom gives me the best presents|
The last few weeks have brought a great deal of reflections partly because of my birthday and partly because at work my Adolescent Literature course is hosting an awkwardy adolescent party. Faculty members have been searching for old, awkward pictures. I was looking for middle school pictures when I found pictures of 8th grade me. Where I’m from, 8th grade was the start of high school. I found this picture of Little Me, circa early 1988. I squint to see those old rings that I wore. I remember that Earth Day shirt and the evil eye pendant that my friend had given me. This was before anyone had died. I look happy; she was happy.
|What my family looks like|
The thing is, I’ve been a journal writer since middle school. There are years with gaps but for the most part, I have a vast collection of documented thoughts and happenings of my life. I recently read one of my 1989 journals where I had just met my young-love goth boyfriend whom I still reference as the love-of-my-young-life. I have fond memories of that first fella. He was three years older than me and the coolest person that I had ever met. I’m not planning to write too much about him then or now since his wife and I are social media friends. You see, I’m not so much a stalker of his current life although it is remarkable how much his wife and I have in common, but I like seeing him alive. It's a bit hard to explain to those who haven't lost close friends in their youth. Basically, I don’t get that opportunity with those who have passed on from this world. Every now and then his wife posts a picture of him or them together and I get to squint to see his young face in this older version of him. Growing up is weird. My journals remind me that what I think I remember isn’t exactly what I remember. Our brains have this magical way of protecting ourselves. Writing can disrupt that. I read through some sad entries. What surprised me is how determined I was to persevere through it all. I didn’t use those words but there was an essence about growing to be an old woman with a great life. I was hopeful.
While some of my peers are mocking their old pictures, I feel more tender. In just months, the girl in this top picture will start losing friends. She will write about it. She will also write about not-so-nice teachers discussing her wardrobe choices and saying that she shouldn't wear black so much. She will write about letters from boyfriends who will give her some awful life advice that she will not follow. I look at the picture and whisper, “hang on, Little Sharon. One day you’ll become 45.” I think Little Me would have been thrilled to know that I would make it that long.
This birthday has felt like an entire week of festivities. Last weekend, my folks, my fella, and I went to Historic Hanover Tavern, a restaurant that received its tavern license in 1733. Patrick Henry’s parents owned the place for a decade in the 1750s and Patrick Henry lived at the Tavern when he was first married to Sarah Shelton. I've written about her before. Years later, many of the enslaved workers of the tavern participated in Gabriel’s Rebellion in 1800. Basically, there is a long fascinating history surrounding the place. I selected it as our birthday luncheon because it is haunted and Mom and I like visiting such places.
After lunch, I met my Babushka (a mix of best friend and sister) and her daughter to attend the local orchid show, where I ended up with two new beauties. I’ve tried orchids in the past but had terribly bright window locations. I’m much more hopeful about these reblooming in the future.
My actual birthday included a birthday breakfast with Babushka and then finishing a chapter submission. Tonight, my fella and I will go out to fondue and be grateful for all that we have, including a tolerance for cheese!