Today I am 45. Happy days.
In some strange way, forty five feels like a milestone of sorts – the same distance from forty as from fifty – but also, I am so full of joy for where I’m at in life that I spent a lot of my lovely birthday walk this morning crying – nay, bawling. Obviously I have at least one cry every second day anyway, but this morning was next level. Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide came on the radio (bawled), it’s sunny (bawled), the walk was really pretty (bawled), had coffee from my pretty insulated mug (bawled), I came home to more coffee and banana bread atop our (You Are Special Today) red plate (bawled), with my lovely husband, three healthy, crazy, often-irritating, always-charming children (bawled), listened to Maya Angelou on Desert Island Discs and turns out we like all the same songs (bawled)… You get the idea.
And it’s not that my life is perfect or not messy or always straightforward, because it’s not. But at 45 I can pretty much say I am thankful to be living a life that I really like and it’s dawning on me that, truly, this is the goal. Isn’t it? It truly is the simple things.
It’s been blessed with a lot of privilege (I think of how my grandparent’s lived and how my parents lived in order to give me the best chance at what every grandparent and parent wants for their offspring – health and happiness), luck and good fortune, good people and teachers, a wonderful family, great friends, resilience, a good attitude, health to date, a sense of appreciation and gratefulness, lots of laughs, access to money and education… the list goes on.
I’m a Leo, but never wanted a birthday party. For me it was more the feeling of having my very own dedicated-to-Laurie day. I’ve always been made to feel very special to be alive – I’ve heard all the stories. How it was really hot before I was born and Dad bought Mam a 99 before being induced in Erinville, where she and my Granny were born too. I was born at 2pm, on my great-grandfather’s anniversary, and we called to my Granny in Mayfield on the way home. Andy Carty was the first person I met on the Main Street in Carrig (he gave me a pound) and Granny O’Connor was picking blackberries when I arrived home. Birthday presents weren’t a big deal at home (though I’ll forever remember getting Jane, my floppy doll, and my pop swatch and my Sindy from Madge next door, who also, incidentally, for my 19th birthday gave me a card with extra money in it because my Granny had died earlier that Summer and she knew I’d miss her and that was her kind way of trying to make that loss up to me) so to me, birthdays have always been more about weighing up how life is going (like a jolly-er, less pressure New Year’s day without the dreaded resolutions) and this year I’m just grateful to feel a real sense of excitement about life and happiness for where I’m at and a hunger to live and learn and love more. Today I got some lovely messages from those dear to me – including one from my Godmother and I’ll often get a few bob from my Godfather. My parents put some cash in their card to me and, honest to God, even at 45 there’s a glorious feeling of being minded and thought about and special when that note falls out of the card that is nothing to do with the financial side of it (although, I mean, I can pay my bills, but (wink, wink) who doesn’t appreciate a tenner to spend as you like?) As usual, the sun is shining today, a day I never, ever had to go to school and usually took off work to just enjoy the fact that August 12th is my, personal day.
Part of the specialness of my birthday story has always been my link to Elvis, who died six days after I was born. One of the nurses on the ward popped her head in to tell Mam the sorry news that the King had died. Mam said everyone felt that sadness – poor Elvis. He could sing any song, so unique, what a star! Always on my birthday, I will think of his passing. I’m 45 today and Elvis is 45 years dead.
Even sadder for this year, is the fact that Elvis was only 42 when he died, so I’ve now lived a longer life than a man who I would see as a bit naff and old-fashioned. It’s a strange feeling.
During lockdown, our small lad got really into Elvis. There were a few CDs around and Santa brought a ukulele and we watched some documentaries. And in the way that a child having a passion or hobby rubs off on their parents and siblings, we all got really, deeply into Elvis.
And it felt to all of us that his life had been such a great one – and yet so, so sad. He never really found happiness or freedom. He was so controlled, his dreams managed and sidelined, his own destiny put beyond his reach. His story was amazing and yet so tragic. Have you ever, truly, deeply listened to him sing ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ – his voice is breathtaking. Did you know he and Priscilla held hands as they signed their divorce papers? It’s heartbreaking.
At one stage, my son asked; “Did Elvis live the biggest life?”; such an innocent but mind-bogglingly succinct question to ask of The King’s life.
Now alive for approximately as long as Elvis both lived and has been dead for, I feel I live a small life, with a deep hunger to keep it shrinking – I want more simplicity, less stuff, less clutter materially and emotionally. I feel I am ever so slightly, but constantly, retreating from culture and the busyness of life. I want nature and family and time – with less of the agenda and fakeness and ego that life can inevitably involve. I love being a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, at home in our lovely, quiet corner of the world. And I really don’t know how I got so lucky as to have what I have. I appreciate it all.
Elvis probably did live a ‘big’ life, but I wonder if he’d had more time, or the opportunity, would he have narrowed it down into a smaller life – free of the circus and money and fakeness that surrounded him – and made a life for himself that was smaller, but perhaps happier? Might he have reached more birthdays? What is a big life if it’s an unhappy one?
I’ll always wonder about Elvis on my birthday.
Anyway. Today I’m raising a toast in appreciation of my own lovely, small, imperfect life and forty five years of getting to where I am now and to, hopefully, forty five more years and health and happiness and a few bob in a card and sunshine and birthdays and pause for thought. And Elvis.
Cheers everyone, X