Tomorrow, I will be 40.
I embrace 40 and truly believe that this next decade will be full of lots of awesomeness. As wonderful as I believe 40 will be (filled, no doubt, with maturity, confidence and wisdom), I balance this outlook with the reality of my physical maturity. My body is beginning to show its years, in both good and bad ways. My metabolism is down shifting. Wrinkles abound and things are saggy that never (EVER) used to sag — things are sagging that I didn’t even know could sag. My eyesight changed overnight–it seemingly wanted to get a headstart on being 40. I’ve enjoyed 39 11/12 years of 20/20 vision and now, suddenly, I’m starting to do that thing with my arm when I’m holding something that I’m trying to read. Do you know what thing I’m talking about? When you move the thing you’re trying to read closer to your eyes and then further away? And then a bit closer and then a bit further again? If you saw me in the grocery store, in the beans aisle, you might think I’m trying to work-out my bicep with a bean can. I’ll move the can away from my face and then toward my face, and then repeat, all while making my biceps look awesome. But what I’m actually doing is trying to read the ingredient and nutrition label. So now, my eyes are deteriorating but my biceps are well-defined and may be one of the last, non-sagging youthful vestiges on my body. Hooray for cans of beans!
Imagine this: four friends, three days, two nights, hot stone massages, leisurely hikes, sleeping in, conversations only interrupted by another fabulous story. No responsibilities. I thought that sounded pretty amazing, too, so to celebrate my milestone birthday, some of my girlfriends and I planned a weekend spa trip. With four husbands and eight children between us, finding a mutually-free weekend AND organizing the leaving-the-house logistics was so small feat. But we did it.
Last Friday was our departure date. The Thursday before we were to leave, Henry stayed home with a nasty cough and my friend G’s youngest stayed home with, shall we say, lower GI distress. In order for us to be able to leave the next morning, all children really needed to be healthy and able to go to school. Another critical need: husbands needed to be healthy.
Friday morning dawned with low humidity and marine blue skies. More importantly, it also dawned with all husbands and children healthy.
Well, wait. That’s not completely true. Actually, M’s husband came down with a migraine and dry heaves and took a nap on the side of the road for two hours because he couldn’t drive. But, the silver-lining in that awfulness is that the kids were healthy (read: at school) so he could enjoy that road-side nap and when he woke up, he felt much better. We had one other little hitch: my friend, G, didn’t sleep well on Thursday (nor had she slept well all week). She awoke feeling a bit dodgy and tired, but hopeful. So I picked everyone up. And each time I pulled into someone’s driveway, I honked the horn. A lot. We were off.
We headed to the hotel. Taking the scenic route, we snapped funny self-portraits. We drove with the windows and sun roof open; we marveled at the gloriousness of the day that spilled into the car. With the giddiness of kids at Christmas, we laughed and squealed, so happy to be independent women with no demands other than our own.
We stopped for lunch at an organic, locally-grown cafe. As we pulled in, the car’s tires crunched on the gravel parking lot. We got out and pulled open the screened door to the restaurant. The crisp noon air flooded the space as we ordered our sandwiches, each choice looking more delicious than the last. Back outside, we chose a weathered picnic table and sat to eat. The food was tremendous–an explosion of fabulous in each bite. As we were in the middle of four conversations, G’s phone rang. It was school nurse calling to report that G’s daughter had just thrown up. G then made the call to her husband so he could pick up their daughter. We all commiserated and had a quick pow-pow: Did G want to go home (we were close enough)? She didn’t. Quickly, we returned to our suspended conversation about feminism and porn (really).
Our next stop was a New York winery for a tasting. The winery was stunning but its wine was average. Still, it was delicious to be sipping wine in the middle of the early Friday afternoon. G wasn’t drinking and was looking a bit gray. Being the trooper that she is, she assured me that she just needed a little nappy.
We headed to the hotel. It was exquisite. Rolling hills provided a picturesque backdrop; the congenial bell caps greeted us and I wore a smile that threatened the outer limits of my smile lines. Our rooms were beautifully appointed and everything smelled of calm and serenity. All four of us opted to lie down. Because we could.
Three of the four of us dozed or napped. Then, we all rallied and went down the pool. Just before I headed down, my stomach flip-flopped. It wasn’t a “WOW this is awesome” flip-flop. It was more of a foreboding, nauseous flip-flop. I told that flip-flop to settle-the-fuck-down and went for a glass of wine.
M, D and I had a cocktail. G laid on a chaise lounge. After her herculean efforts to not get sick, G finally had to call it. She was, indeed, sick. After making sure she had the provisions she needed, M, D and I headed to dinner. During our meal, G then sent the text: she’d thrown up and was probably going to have to leave the next morning. She was despondent and felt awful.
At about 11:30 pm, we moved D’s stuff into M’s and my room so she wouldn’t get the stomach flu. So, it was kinda funny that as we climbed into jammies, that subtle stomach flip-flop I experienced several hours earlier had morphed into an I’m-gonna-puke malaise. As I hung my head over the cold air blowing from the air-conditioning unit, M and D held an emergency pow-pow by the bathroom. They promptly called the front desk to see if any other rooms were available. They secured a stomach-flu-free room and fled to its safety.
Saturday morning, as I hung on by a string, D started to go downhill.
I had to call it.
We were going home.
There would be no spa treatments. There would be no lounging by the pool. There would be no sassy outfits, sun-kissed cheeks, lingering dinner, rambling toasts and clinking glasses. All these glorious delicacies would be replaced with crackers, ginger ale and rumpled sheets. Hubby called the hotel to cancel all the spa treatments and our Saturday stay.
We drove home.
After I got home and settled, Abby curled up on the couch in a ball. Through tears, she informed me that her stomach hurt. A LOT. She felt so yucky. I felt so yucky. I spent the weekend in slow motion, resting. On Monday, G’s husband started to get the awful stomach bug. G threw up again. D’s son contracted a case of double pink eye. M’s two boys stayed home from school with temperatures of 102 degrees.
Yesterday, I still suffered from lower-GI malaise and Henry stayed home from school with his own lower-GI distress.
I must admit that I’ve been a bit blue about My-40th-Birthday-Weekend-Turned-Stomach-Flu Infirmary. This isn’t the type of celebration I had in mind. (No surprise there.) I do, however, see some upshots in this whole debacle:
1. Six days of a stomach bug is a good way to stay trim and thin (screw you, 40-year-old metabolism).
2. I totally get a 40th birthday redo. A bigger and better redo.
3. This birthday will never, ever be forgotten.
4. Presents. Really awesome redo presents.
I’m almost to the point where this is funny. (Note that I said almost–so if you run into me, you can smile or giggle a lit bit but that snark better be followed by a warm, sympathetic embrace. And then by a present. Just kidding. Sorta.) Each day that passes brings me more perspective on this whole messed-up birthday. And it’s this: it’s not messed up. It’s a blip. A ridiculous, almost-funny blip. My life is richer than my twenty-year-old self ever could’ve imagined. I married an amazing, intelligent, handsome, loving man whose arms always feel like home. I gave birth to two exquisite children. I am able to raise my children and live my life.
I get to keep on, each day, surrounded by people who will move mountains to help me celebrate me.
I am humbled.
I am honored.
And therein lies my gift. I am here. Here’s to 40 more.