I’m not sentimental about birthdays. A cake with candles, a wish, a song—these things are for babies. But being alive is good, and so I tend to celebrate for all of November, which basically means I don’t say no to myself for the entire month. If I want something, I buy it. If I want to do something, I do it. If I want fried food, I eat it. A month of indulgence to celebrate the wonderfulness of being me and being born.
As always, David starts asking about my plans a month before the big day. He knows, as I do not, that the ninth falls on a Sunday. He wants to know what gift I’ve picked out for him to get me, whether I want a special meal, if I want to go to a movie or take an extra-long walk at one of my favorite parks or reserves. Unlike me, David is sentimental. He’d love it if I threw a party—and he’d especially love it if there was cake and he could sing.
While it’s true that lately I’ve been overwhelmed by too many possessions (more carpets than floors, too much furniture, too much shelving; and don’t get me started on the out-of-date technology that fills the back walk-in closet), stuff is exactly what I want for my birthday.
A Fit Bit. My friend, Karen, wears one on her wrist that vibrates when she reaches ten thousand steps. How cool is that? I’ll be looking at it constantly. I’ll become obsessed. How many times have I walked up the stairs today? How many calories have I burned? I’ll always be competing against my yester-self. This is definitely a November necessity.
Also: it’s been ages since I’ve lived in a cold climate. My one coat is a trench coat from the eighties—shoulder pads! Oddly, it’s a Teflon product, which renders it so novel that I can’t make myself get rid of it. But I also can’t make myself wear it. So, I need a new coat.
In Singapore hosiery was non-existent. It was hot and humid and women went bare-legged. In a Houston winter, this simply isn’t an option. So leg-wise, I’m starting from scratch. I check out the other women to see what sort of leg-covering is prevalent. Mostly I see black tights. But I also see boots. So I buy a pair. They’re gorgeous. Smooth leather with heels so high that they’re able to make even my chubby short legs look long and shapely.
Choice of meal—brunch at a trendy restaurant, Benjy’s, in Rice Village. The parking lot is full. Someone must vacate before we can park. Outside the entrance a cluster of people stare at their phones. It’s good that we have a reservation. Anna and Curtis wait for us inside at a centrally located table. Anna gives me a book, The Dinner, by Herman Koch, which she says is one of her favorites. She hasn’t known me long, but she knows I’m a reader. Curtis gives me a cork caddy in the shape of a chicken. I’ll have that baby filled up in two weeks.
First order of business, I request a bloody Mary to wash away my irritation over the music at church this morning. Why is this such an issue for me? For one thing, the range is prohibitive; no one in the congregation can sing as high as the women’s choir, so nobody except the choir sings, which is just wrong. Also, the words are printed in the program, so there are no notes to follow—how do you know where to take your voice if there’s no written music? Isn’t this what hymnals are for? Where are the hymnals? And every tempo moves from slow to slower. Hymns should be brisk and joyful. They should cause toe-tapping and afternoon humming, not dragging dirgy gloom.
Benjy's prides itself on its innovative cuisine. Oddly, the bloody Mary garnish is a Brussel sprout. On the menu—unusual pairings. Waffles and chicken. Omelet and grilled zucchini. French toast, roasted potatoes, and eggs covered in maple syrup. I order the salmon omelet, which is delicious. After lunch the four of us walk through Rice Village, enjoying the atmosphere. One shop, British Isles, is dedicated to all things British—Portmeirion china, Crabtree and Evelyn soaps and lotions, Queen Elizabeth action figures. The Spode display makes me want to buy more for my Christmas collection--no, Jenny, don't do it! From there we’re lucky to come across a festive flea market. The goods are craftsy—homemade soaps and jewelry and candles, stuff nobody needs, but it’s fun to look at and smell. The sky is clear and blue, not a cloud. I can't imagine a more pleasant birthday afternoon.