I just celebrated my 50th birthday, and did so with unbridled enthusiasm. In fact, I will probably revel in this milestone the entire year.
As may be obvious, I believe in observing the anniversary of the day we were born. We are wondrous, all of us, in our own ways. That we were born and hopefully have brought something of value to the table during our lives is worth commemorating.
Turning 50 seems frequently dreaded but I have no issue with it. I’m pretty happy with making it this far, and I feel confident I’m going to experience decades more of this wonderful life.
Fifty is the new 20 anyway, isn’t it? At least, that’s what I conveyed to a young gal sitting in the bleachers at my son’s high school baseball game. She said I didn’t look 50, which prompted me to confide I really didn’t “feel” like it either.
I’ve pretty much felt like the same gal since my 20s. As this seems true for many others, my theory is once our general personality is set, and we’ve waded through the drama of youth, we are pretty much who we are, and that’s what being us feels like forevermore.
Plus, age is just a number, and not a defining metric when you consider all that life is. My body still seems to work pretty well, and my brain, so that helps me out, I’m sure.
To kick off my birthday this year, my mother took me back to the place I was born — Northern California. We spent a glorious two weeks reacquainting ourselves with the sights, smells and sounds of where I used to call home. My cells seemed to open up and remember this place that meant so much to me in my first 25 years. How I’d missed it.
I spent time in most the places that were significant in my youth: San Francisco, the Oakland hills, Walnut Creek and Berkeley with a trip down the magnificent Pacific Coast, hitting Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Carmel and Big Sur.
There is nothing quite like that familiar coastline, with its jagged cliffs and evergreen trees framing the deep blues and sea greens of the Pacific Ocean. My breath literally caught in my throat at first glimpse.
It was also a joy to hear the unique sounds of the region from foghorns in the mist to barking sea lions jockeying for space to sun their slippery skins.
The smells were ever-present reminders of another place as well. The tangy scent of sourdough bread, the pungent eucalyptus trees I’ve never smelled anywhere else and the distinct aroma of Indian food in the home of my childhood friend when I visited her parents.
I reveled in the vast array of food, especially in San Francisco, from the copious amounts of Asian restaurants (eight different cultures represented in two city blocks) to the corral of trendy food trucks offering the unusual (pork belly concoctions, bao sandwiches and crème brulee), to specialty ice creams (cayenne cantaloupe sorbet anyone?), to my best bite: a sushi dish called Lobster Dynamite (oh and it was). I indulged in food famous to the area such as Dungeness crab and dim sum plus fried artichokes and salami from an Italian delicatessen my family has frequented for decades.
I saw old friends, made new friends, visited relatives and spent time with my brother Mike, who still resides in San Francisco. Our family even went to Club Fugazi for a showing of Beach Blanket Babylon, a longstanding family tradition. My mom and I also revisited old neighborhoods and reminisced about the homes we once lived in.
I came home to more birthday celebrations. Friends from the gym greeted me with hugs, cards, presents — and a workout.
Hundreds of folks wished me happy birthday on the actual day.
My husband took me to a favorite restaurant for a romantic dinner and then brought me home to celebrate with family. I certainly wasn’t expecting any presents after a decadent trip but he quickly assigned us roles as driver, navigator and co-navigator and we took off in a car with directions to pick up a package.
The navigators experienced some trouble, and we drove around — cracking up — until my husband called to find out where we were. My son sheepishly admitted the directions were baffling so we picked up my husband and arrived at our destination within five minutes. Of course. And the gift? A GPS (oh, the irony), something that will bring me peace of mind for years to come.
There have been other celebrations and treats, and they have left me feeling blessed and loved.
I expect a great year (and life) ahead, and this is just the kick-off to the second half.
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