September 25, 2012

Also Barbara Walters and Catherine Zeta Jones

As I’ve mentioned every year, September 25 is William Faulkner’s birthday. It’s also Will Smith’s birthday, which leads me to think that if I’d been born male and named William, I’d have gotten a bit further in my career by now. It’s also Mark Hamill’s birthday and Shel Silverstein’s, so really I’m in quite good company, especially if I want to figure out where the sidewalk ends or use the force to bring down the empire.

And it is my birthday. My 39th birthday this time around. Thirty-nine is kind of freaking me out because it occurs to me that I’m approaching equilibrium between the time I’ve already used up and the time I have left. Since I don’t believe in heaven or an afterlife, I’ve got, if I’m lucky, 100 years to do all the things I want to do. My fucking stepmother squandered a few of those, but the rest are on me. A hundred years sounds like a long time, but it’s impossibly short and then someday I will no longer exist and if I think about that for more than a few minutes I start hyperventilating. Unfortunately, I think about it a lot.

Anyway, my point is that any places I don’t visit, any books I don’t read, any things I don’t accomplish or feel or see – I don’t get to do them if I don’t squeeze them in sometime in the next 61 years, give or take.

For example, I’ve always wanted a surprise party. I figured I was pretty much screwed, because there was never anyone who cared enough about me to throw me one until I met my husband, and he cannot for the life of him imagine why anyone would want a surprise party. But then, on Sunday, I came home from taking Benjamin to dance class, and there was a “Happy Birthday” sign up and those little blowing thingies and balloons. Zachary had taken it upon himself to plan a surprise party for me. That the sign and the balloons were the extent of the party didn’t detract from the sweetness of the whole thing. Even better? Lilah was incredibly excited to be throwing me this “party,” despite the fact that it was actually her birthday.

Right, so I’ve gotten as close to a surprise party as I’m ever likely to get. But there’s so much left to see, do, and experience out there. I want it all. ALL. I want to swallow the world whole so I can see all the art and climb mountains and drink wine in Paris and visit Morocco. You get the picture. But ways lead onto ways, as the poet wrote, and there are limitations. I’ll do and see and read only so many things. Today, I got to watch my daughter ride her big-girl bike birthday present up and down the sidewalk, which was awesome, but it means I wasn’t hiking in Tibet. I wonder if someone hiking in Tibet today felt keenly that she wasn’t watching her daughter ride a big-girl bike that she got for her fourth birthday.

For my birthday this year, I’d like to offer y’all the chance to ask me something. Anything. If it’s too personal, I might ignore it, but I might not. I’ll post answers here after Yom Kippur. Go on, ask me a question; it’ll help me forget that I’m about to die in six decades.

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  • Reply Melanie September 25, 2012 at 1:17 am

    My Birthday was yesterday, and I don’t like to think about getting older, the anxiety creeps back in and I start to lose it. I will say this, I don’t have a question but I do admire the lengths you go to, to protect your kids identities. I have always thought I have so much to say, but I never found the balance of what is their story and what is mine to share. I think you walk that tightrope as well as anyone.

  • Reply alejna September 25, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Happy birthday, Emily! I have to work on thinking up a good question. I’m really tired right now, and the thoughts that are through my head aren’t making a lot of sense. (Some of the thoughts involve marshmallows.) One question for you that came to mind is: When can we hang out? But that’s probably not the sort of question you had in mind (nor does it involve marshmallows).

    Okay. Here are a couple of related questions. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? Were there other careers that you seriously considered, or that you still consider? (Also, why can I never remember how to spell career?)

  • Reply Lauren September 25, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Happy birthday, Emily! My question for you is when do we get to see you next?

  • Reply niobe September 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Happy birthday!

  • Reply Catherine September 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    I know. Me too. You said it perfectly.
    Happy Birthday! I’ll try to come up with a question.

  • Reply Nandini September 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    It’s my bday, too! Michael Douglas also shares our birthday.
    Question: as much as you seem to prefer Boston over new jersey, is it hard living in a place where you grew up?
    And, do you miss having a relationship with your sister? (sorry if I am assuming you have little contact with her).

  • Reply fiwa September 25, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Happy Birthday! All the birthdays ending in nines are hard ones. I think they’re worse than the actual decade birthdays that everyone else makes a big deal about. But 40? 40 and on has been fantastic. You have nothing to dread in birthdays, sister. You are fantastic and you just keep getting better.

    Oh the pressure! I’m not sure what question I want to ask yet. I’ll come back with one after I’ve given it some careful thought.

  • Reply Antropologa September 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    You spend a lot of time on food prep, it seems like, to make sure everything is nutritious and fits what your kids will eat, and then sometimes they don’t it anyway, am I right?. So what do you do with leftovers? It doesn’t seem like you eat them all yourself, since it seems like you “watch your figure,” but I imagine it is extra-hard to throw away food you worked so hard on. So what is the solution?

    Also, some of your children have unique challenges. Are you how do I put this, surprised? I guess I am asking because I have a kid who has her own unique challenge (all right, I guess everybody does) but I keep being surprised about it. She has two loving, educated, attentive parents and a stable household and everything she could need, and yet life is hard, in some ways. I guess life just isn’t fair, of course it isn’t, but does that seem natural to you, or do you keep wondering when everything will be perfect?

  • Reply Brigid September 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Happy Birthday! (belated) I have always wanted a surprise party as well, but usually give up and throw my own parties. (That makes me sound so social – but really I threw parties when I was 19 and 20 and again last year for the big 4-0.)
    Hmmm, a question for Emily… if you could drive any vehicle in the world, what would it be?

  • Reply Heather September 27, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Happy Birthday. The forties are really not so bad if you just stay away from full length mirrors while naked. I also feel that sense of ‘hurry up and get it done now because you are running out of time.’

    My question, which you may not answer since you keep your kids somewhat hidden here- In your parenting how do you approach entitlement. What do you do/plan to do (or not do) in regards to the rampant sense of entitlement people have? I’ve mostly lived in the Boston area but assume what I see her is how it must be in most of this country. Thanks.

  • Reply Poker Chick September 27, 2012 at 3:26 am

    Say one of your children figure out that space/time continuum thing and you’re able to go back in time and meet the 22-year old you. What advice do you give?

  • Reply Catherine September 28, 2012 at 2:58 am

    If I’m not too late, here are my questions:

    Where (or how, or in what) do you find peace and joy? Where do you teach your children to find these things?

    What is one thing that your husband brings to your life that is lifegiving to you?

    In one sentence, how would you like us to remember you?

  • Reply Erica September 28, 2012 at 4:14 am

    I’m not a familiar voice in these comments, but I am a loyal shadow-reader. I often wonder about your marriage. You seem very grateful for your husband, which is a quality I see very rarely (I wonder why is it socially acceptable to complain about spouses, but not to brag about them). Do you feel that you are “successful” at marriage as an endeavor? To what do you attribute your success (or lack thereof)?

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