It is a truth universally acknowledged that by the time our children get married, we as parents are probably facing some pretty big birthdays. For the last year, I have been anticipating two big events: the wedding of my daughter and a particularly big birthday of my own, both occurring in June. We just celebrated my daughter’s wedding, on June 5, and it was one of the highlights of my life. And on June 12, I celebrated my big birthday.
Now because my birthday is in June, a popular month for weddings and graduations, I have experienced many occasions when my birthday took a back seat to other milestone events. And that was understandable. For example, my own wedding was in the month of June, the same month that I graduated from UCLA and I actually think we may have skipped my birthday that year, as there were far too many other distractions. I had no regrets. My wedding and my graduation were gloriously happy events and were wonderfully celebrated.
Fast forward to many years later. My daughter got engaged about a year and a half ago on Valentine’s weekend. At that time I knew that my daughter’s wedding preparations would be my focus in the months preceding her wedding in June, and I anticipated being involved in all the pre-wedding events. And it was more fun than I could have imagined — bridal dress fittings, registering for gifts, two wedding showers, picking the wines and tasting the food for the wedding dinner at Campanile Restaurant. Her younger sister, who lives in San Francisco, came home many times to be part of all the festivities leading up to the big day, and it seemed that the house was buzzing for months.
When friends began asking me what I wanted to do for my big birthday, which is seven days after her wedding, I was ambivalent. Part of me didn’t really want a party, I dreamed of a trip to Europe with my husband. And if there was a party, it needed to be several weeks away from the wedding, as it would be unfair to ask my friends to come to two big events that were just days apart. My girlfriends persuaded me to have a wonderful girls’ lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel and to do it early enough that it didn’t interfere with the wedding. And so they gave me a lovely luncheon in May, several weeks before my actual birthday and the wedding.
Thinking about this big birthday made me remember the previous one a year ago when I turned a certain number that ended with a nine. At that point I went to my dermatologist to discuss some of the “milder” types of procedures we might do to “freshen up” my face a bit for the big birthday. Surgery was completely out. But I wanted to learn about other things that women my age were doing. I left the office with a lilt in my step, carrying several pamphlets and making all kinds of plans in my head to get rolling with some of these procedures. I felt good and confident that I was going to “take care of business” and deal with some of the more irritating aspects of getting older, like droopy eyelids. As I write this today, five days before my milestone birthday, I have to admit that I did nothing. And it wasn’t because I took a principled stand against cosmetically improving oneself. For me, it was really more a case of procrastination and fear of needles.
I think it was Woody Allen who said that without rationalizations it would be tough to get through the day. As I confronted the fact that I had done nothing toward improving my physical appearance, I decided that this summer, after the birthday, would be good enough to get the ball rolling with some procedures and besides I had been much too busy getting ready for the wedding. After all, I exercised and tried to watch what I ate. Memories of Meryl Strep in “It’s Complicated” holding up her eyelid when she ran into Alec Baldwin in the elevator were filling my head and I remembered that she had also decided against doing anything and had left well enough alone.
So the big day for my daughter finally happened. She had a beautiful wedding ceremony under the lush citrus trees in her lovely backyard, which was filled with 150 friends and family members. As I gazed at her beautiful and radiant face and listened to her and her husband exchange their marriage vows in front of everyone, I was very moved. The bride and groom drove off to the party in the 1963 Mercedes 190 SL that my daughter’s grandmother had owned. We had decorated it with streamers and flowers, having been inspired by the recent royal wedding from which Prince William and Kate Middleton had driven away in a festively decorated sports car. The guests sipped champagne and listened to music as they were transported to the restaurant in two red double-decker buses whose interiors were also festively decorated with streamers and flowers.
After a divine Tuscan style dinner at Campanile Restaurant, a setting that could have been right out of “Romeo and Juliet” with its fountains, vaulted ceiling and balconies, everyone got up and moved to the front room of the restaurant where many beautiful toasts were given. After my husband’s and my younger daughter’s lovely speeches, the bride, the groom and my younger daughter announced that they had a song to sing to us. Mystified as to what was coming up next, I briefly wondered if they were going to break out into a rendition of “Do, Re, Mi” from “The Sound of Music” the way they used to do when they were little girls. The lights went down, and with a mike in their hands, they announced that in one week I was having a big birthday and would everyone join them in singing “Happy Birthday” to me. I must have been grinning ear to ear because my happiness was overflowing as I heard 150 people sing “Happy Birthday.” A waiter approached me with a small cake with a lit candle and I blew it out.
As I later watched my daughter and her husband dance the first dance to “Something in the Way She Moves ” by the Beatles, I was filled with deep emotion. I was so proud at that moment of the daughter I had raised who had become such an accomplished and confident young woman, who in the midst of celebrating the best day of her life, would make sure that she and everyone else also remembered my birthday.