The Song of Life
On the night of my birthday, my daughters and I cooked my birthday dinner of grilled salmon, wild rice and a salad of crisp greens, cucumber, and bright, red tomatoes. As we shared the details of our day, our voices bounced around the kitchen and our laughter was contagious. Our chatter carried on through dinner and even as we cleared the table. My oldest daughter, Marie, had to go to work, so she left the house shortly after helping her sister clean up the kitchen. My youngest, Meaghan, had homework and promptly holed herself up in her room. The night’s darkness called to me, so I headed out the door into my backyard. Grabbing the rake that leaned against a nearby tree, I raked pine needles and pinecones into the center of my fire circle. With the addition of a few small branches, I soon had a very nice fire going. A tree cut down a few weeks before provided me with a nice seat in the form of a circle from its trunk. Looking up through the pines above me, the stars were ice-cold pinpricks of light in the sky. Golden sparks from the fire drifted on the night air and joined the silver stars, competing in their effort to pierce the darkness.
As much as I love making a big deal about the birthdays of family and friends, I had been dreading my own fortieth birthday. I had watched helplessly while one friend after another fell victim to mid-life crises. One good friend was enjoying her thirtieth birthday luncheon at Embassy Suites hotel when her appendix ruptured. I was sitting across from her when she went deathly pale and asked me to call an ambulance. Did I need to worry that my body would begin failing me? Another friend greeted her mid-life crisis at forty-five by going blonde and buying a sports car. I would never look good as a blonde and if I had the money to buy a sports car, I could find better things on which to spend it, like a summer month on Tybee Island or a hefty addition to my daughters’ college fund.
So it was with great confusion that I approached my impending birthday. I felt sad for no reason and when I considered the upcoming year of my life, I wondered what I would find to celebrate. The appearance of new wrinkles? More gray hair to battle? My daughters moving closer to a path that would lead them away from home to find a life of their own? All of these events were designed to make me feel my age. The more I tried to ignore my birthday, the more it seemed to flash like a warning sign on a highway under construction. So I took an unusual approach to this disaster determined to happen; I would write my own birthday song.
Now, sitting by the fire, I watched as our cat, Margot, bounced in and out of the fire circle, careful never to get close enough to singe her fur. I laughed at her antics until she bounced away into the darkness. The fire popped and cracked, glowing red when the wind caressed it embers, creating a music that was alive with its essence. In that moment, the lyrics I had been composing for the past few weeks combined with the music in my head and I sang:
“Mother of all women, you who knows my heart, hear my song…You have watched my successes and smiled upon me…My job…my home…my loves…You have guided me as I guided my daughters, teaching them to love nature and to love themselves…You have blessed me with riches that surpass money or fame…You have given me hope…and love…and peace. On this, the fortieth anniversary of my birth, give me the peace to accept my self.”
There was no doubt, no fear in the words of my song. Instead my words were filled with thankfulness and joy. I lifted it up to the night sky and it rose on the smoke of my fire into the heavens.
By the time my song ended, Margot had crawled up into my lap and we sat there together, enjoying the life of the fire and the crisp, night air. I wished that I could give my friends what my song gave me, but along with the revelation that it was not necessary to have a mid-life crisis came the certainty that everyone must find their own life’s song. I held no more dread of turning forty years old; it was done.