Tag Archives: birthdays

Only the Unlonely

It happened just the way I’d pictured it. We waved goodbye to our girls; one tall, one small, hand-in-hand, backpack-strapped, escorted by a flight attendant aboard a plane headed for Nana’s house. And, as anticipated, tears were spilled. We sat at the gate long after it had emptied, awaiting departure, and, an extremely somber 30 minutes later, they were gone.

A few blocks from the airport we dined at our favorite sushi place and gradually I felt the mood begin to lift. Clouds rolled backward, heavens opened up, and to our mutual amazement, something like a choir of joyous angels descended unto earth, banishing sorrow in a sweet falsetto, “Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found theeeeeeee,” and all at once it hit us: we were FREE!

Two seconds after arriving home the mister was naked. Simply to be naked. And, unless forced to be in public, he ceased wearing clothes altogether. At some point I found him standing in the backyard, basking in the setting sun, a warm breeze blowing through his…chest hair. We giggled like loons. We agreed to have naked breakfast on the patio that weekend, because….what neighbors? Neighbors who? We’re a childless couple now. We’re naked old people in our backyard now; top o’ the morning to ya!

Nudey-dudey breakfast time never came to pass, however, for we did something far greater with our mornings; we slept in. We stayed out late, we woke late, we lounged in bed, snuggled like it was an Olympic sport, made each other laugh, made each other smile, made out, napped, watched t.v., ventured outdoors only for food, came home and did it all over it again. We stocked the refrigerator with kale, fish, coconut Thai tomato soup and stinky cheese. We hatched a plan to scope out recipes; alternating nights in which one would surprise the other with an exciting new dish. We didn’t purchase a single frozen toaster pastry, shitty chemical-flavored cheese cracker, or any product with a character from Frozen on it. It was like living in a dream.

By Sunday I, too, had kicked the habit of wearing clothes. Had we ever gotten along so well? Ever been more in love? Was it as magical back when we were dating? I didn’t think so. And the house! We’d cleaned it just after our daughters left, and days later…it was still clean! I turned to my beloved, bald, giant, hairy nudist and cried, “It’s THEM! It’s always been THEM!”

But at the close of our refreshing weekend, around 10 PM, he learned his father had been hospitalized in Michigan. He spent Monday morning gathering info, Monday afternoon making travel arrangements, and by Tuesday morning I was once more at the airport waving farewell (though I’m relieved to report, his pops is presently on the mend and recovering well).

My 37th birthday followed, the very next day, and every member of my household was in a different state; one in Florida, one in Washington, one in Michigan. I was a little bummed out by this, until I reminded myself how I’d kicked them all out, on purpose, just three weeks prior – for Mother’s Day. That was my gift request: GET. OUT. I only wanted time to myself, without having to go anywhere to get it. I sent my little family out to dinner and just kicked back in silence, soaking in the stillness, and ignoring texts like, “If you change your mind, we’d love for you to join us” and “I wish you were with us mama.” Perhaps the opposite of leaving me in peace, but I didn’t mind. I also didn’t feel bad. I told my preteen, “Someday, you’ll be all grown up and out on your own. Someday you might live a zillion miles away and I will miss you like a crazy person. And someday I’ll thrill to get a phone call from you, I’ll ache to spend time with you, and I’ll count the minutes until I see you again. But NOT today.”

And thus, Life, being funny the way Life insists it’s very funny, said, “Happy Birthday, Niki! Here’s some of that mega-extended ‘me time’ you value so much. We left the cat. Cheers.”

But joke’s on Life, for once, since I’ve been enjoying myself. Between my husband making surprise birthday arrangements before he left town and my co-workers/friends rallying around me, I’ve been quite content. In the week and a half since the fam deserted, I’ve discovered this weird, yet incredible thing called “do whatever you want.” I make whatever I want for dinner, rent whichever movie I please, go to bed at any ungodly hour suitable to my fancy, and I leave the house without announcing where I’m going, or when I’ll be back. I answer to no one! Except the cat.

Dr. Pickles disapproves, but he’s not the boss of me.

Dr. Pickles

The entire scenario has caused me to reflect on the fact that I’ve never lived alone. I talk a lot about growing up alone in the woods – and minus a pack of wolves raising me, it’s mostly true. Between the ages of five and twelve I lived smack-dab in the middle of 17 acres of forest, and because my stepfather hated children (and being that I was a child, sucked to be me) I was forbidden to have friends over. I spent A LOT of time alone. With a cat.

As an adult woman, though, not so much. I’ve lived with my mother, a roommate, a significant other, or, later on, my first born – but never alone. Good thing I got so much practice at solitude when I was small, it made the last several days doable. Pleasant, even. Definitely an interesting and introspective journey, but I’m done now. All done. All caught up on the “me time.” If this is some “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of shit, go ahead and hook Clarence up with those wings, Universe, because I got the message. I’d like my family back now, please.
Posthaste, tout de suite, and hurry the lonesome hell up.
They are my life, and my God am I a lucky woman for it.

Dear Niki

Shortly after my birthday in 2011, inspired by a Plinky prompt, I wrote a letter to my-one-year-in-the-future-self. It’s sat in the drafts section of my email box ever since. Read it this morning, and I’d like to thank 34 year old Niki for the smiles. I’d also like to assure her that the future is bright, and all poop-related catastrophes have been contained.

Dear 35 Year Old Niki,

Hey, it’s me, 34 Year Old Niki. How’s it going? Have your Master’s Degree yet? Haha. Yeah, I thought you’d laugh (and then cry) at that.

Hope things are going well for you, obviously. At the very least, I hope you’re not still changing diapers. I also hope your husband is home from South Korea, that your marriage took no significant hits from the separation, that your eldest is transitioning into preteendome as smoothly as a girl that age can, and that your toddler is moving into preschooler territory without much protest – and by “protest” you know I really mean still pooping her pants. Or pooping in the bath tub. Or pooping on a hotel carpet (REMEMBER THAT?!  Right after you’d signed that waiver saying you had no pets in the room).

I hope you found, or are in the process of finding, a job that isn’t soul-sucking, pays for more than just childcare expenses, and is even slightly interesting. Because (and this is just my year younger than you opinion here, but) I really think you need to get out of the house. However, if you’re still living in the same town (and it would be a miracle if you found a job at all in that town) I don’t fault you for staying home. I know I do.

How was turning 35, anyway?  Did you sob naked in a bathtub? After taking stock of the effects time has wrought on your matronly body, and that face you should have been slathering Ponds upon, years ago?  That would be a shame. Because, from my end of things, I’ve been doing my best to prepare you for middle age. And, yes, 35 is considered the commencement of middle age, according to the US Census. I looked that shit up. I’m busy mentally picturing the type of middle-aged woman you want to be, but I haven’t arrived at the image yet. I hope you do.

I also hope you’re still happy, because – though nothing is perfect – I am. I’m deeply grateful for the health and happiness of my children, my family, my friends, the strength of my marriage, and, however limited, the stability of our finances. And any time I want to kvetch that my boobs are less awesome or that I see the begining of jowls, I check-in with the reality of real world heartache – which can be found, en masse, around any domestic or international bend. I have a feeling, in the years to come, “healthy perspective” is going to be your very best friend.

Thus, I hope you’re graceful (in your old, tired, decrepit age). I hope this is the beginning of a new era for you. If, in letting go of youth, and those unrealized dreams, you let go of self-doubt and increase your own personal level of “what the hell”, and actually GO for things, that would be cool. Grabbing life by the ballsack has never been your thing – or even your purpose, I think. Your journey has been of a deeply personal, behind-the-scenes, under-the-hood sort. A quiet evolution of the soul. But, ball-grabbing aside, surely it’s time to give life a thuroughly serious titty twister.

Most of all, and most importantly, you’ve hibernated long enough: GET OUT OF THE FUCKING HOUSE.

Oh, and don’t start smoking again, either. Dummy.

With immensely selfish love,
34 Year Old Niki