Moxie’s Birthday, or How to Party Like You’re Six Years Old

I celebrated a birthday this weekend. It wasn’t a milestone birthday, so I didn’t plan any big celebrations – instead, I stayed home and continued to focus on getting better after a nasty bout of the flu, which I like to think of as the zombie virus from Hades.

I made the comment to a friend that after picking up cough syrup at the pharmacy I felt as if I were six years old, and it got me thinking: what would a six year old do on her birthday? Here’s what I came up with:

How to Party Like You’re Six Years Old

Starring Moxie, Ippie and Rooney

party, birthday, cat ears, leopard print cat ears
Every good party must include some sort of hat. I put on my cat ears.
birthday, party, cat ears, leopard print cat ears
They fit perfectly. Now it’s time to party.

Pick up the cat to show off to your friends how much she loves you.

cat, Ippie, birthday, party
My kitty cat Ippie is so pretty and soft!

When she meows in irritation from how you’re holding her and squirms out of your arms, act like you totally meant to put her down anyway, because you have to go take your cough medicine now.

icky medicine
I don’t want to take my medicine right now.

Because you’re grown, you can put your cough medicine in a shot glass. But because you are grown, you also know that the medicine delivery method will not make the medicine taste any better.

It smells funny. I don't want to take it.
It smells funny. I don’t want to take it.
cough medicine, medicine, taste
That medicine was gross. I want to scrape it off my tongue.

Because you are grown, you can have a chaser after your medicine.

cough medicine, medicine, root beer, taste
I’m gonna drink some root beer to get the taste of icky medicine out of my mouth.
root beer, birthday, party
Mmmm, root beer makes everything better.

Show off the birthday card you got in the mail from your grandma. She sent you a letter, too, but you’ll read that later.

birthday, party, birthday card, grandma
I got a card and a bookmark from my grandma!

Now it’s time to have one, JUST ONE, of your birthday cupcakes. Because you are grown, you picked them out and purchased them yourself at the neighborhood gluten-free bakery. You’re not supposed to eat gluten anymore because it makes your stomach hurt, but sometimes you still do it when no one’s watching.

birthday, party, cupcakes, gluten free cupcakes
I have TWO cupcakes! One is blueberry vanilla and the other is chocolate.
blueberry, vanilla, cupcake, gluten free, birthday, party
I am going to eat my blueberry vanilla cupcake first.
blueberry, vanilla, cupcake, gluten free
It’s really good! I like it!
blueberry, vanilla, cupcake, gluten free
I ate the blueberries on top of the frosting. They were good.

Now it’s time for some party activities. You break out the coloring book and crayons because coloring is fun and you’re really good at it.

crayon, coloring, coloring book, birthday, party
I need the right color crayon for Cinderella’s hair. I think goldenrod would work.
coloring, crayons, coloring book, concentrating
Sometimes when I’m concentrating real hard I stick out my tongue. It helps a lot when I’m trying to stay inside the lines.
Rooney, cat, coloring, crayons, coloring book
Rooney kitty jumped up where I was coloring and made me mess up!
crying, Rooney, cat, coloring, crayons, coloring book
I didn’t want to mess up my picture! I was coloring it for YOU!
pouting, pout, birthday, party
I’m going to pout now.

When you really were six, Jennifer McCloskey would steal the gold and silver crayons because she said they were real and you and her little brother & sister weren’t worthy of using them. She left you with copper, and even though you were only six years old, you still knew copper wasn’t worth crap. Because you are grown now, you use the gold and silver crayons WHENEVER YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE.

gold crayon, silver crayon, crayons, coloring
I have the gold and silver crayons, Jennifer. So nyah nyah nyah.
Ippie, cat, crayons, coloring, coloring book
Now Ippie wants to mess with my crayons.
Ippie, cat, crayons, coloring, coloring book
No Ippie! Bad kitty! Leave my crayons alone!

You get a surprise phone call from your best friend Deena who couldn’t make it to your party. Because she is grown, she is in Atlantic City with her boyfriend.

birthday, best friend, party
My best friend called me to say happy birthday!
My best friend tells the funniest stories. She got sick on grape soda! And then she ate Chinese food! She is funny!
My best friend tells the funniest stories. She got sick on grape soda! And then she ate Chinese food! She is funny!
coloring, coloring book, crayons
I finished my coloring! Do you like it?

Now it’s time for some dancing.

The party is almost over, so it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday” and have another cupcake.

birthday, party, chocolate cupcake, gluten free
It’s time to sing happy birthday!
birthday, party, candle, wish
Make a wish! But don’t tell anybody or it won’t come true!
birthday, wish, candle, party
I blew out the candle all by myself!
birthday, party, chocolate cupcake, gluten free
I’m gonna eat the frosting first because it’s my birthday.
birthday, party, chocolate cupcake, gluten free
The frosting is good. Now I’m gonna eat the cake part.
cupcake, chocolate, gluten free
It’s a really good cupcake!
chocolate, frosting, cupcake, gluten-free
I have chocolate frosting on my finger! Hee hee!
birthday, party
Thanks for coming to my birthday party! I hope you’ll come next year too!

Taking the Long Way Around

Since I was a kid, I have always gotten a little maudlin in the week leading up to my birthday. Mentally I was on track to be feted and honored in spectacular ways, showered with adoration and gifts. Then the actual day would arrive and it was always a letdown. Celebrations never seemed big or grandiose enough. Presents fell short in some way: it was the wrong color or size, it was a book/movie/record I already owned, it showed that the giver had no sense of my likes and dislikes. Someone would attempt to surprise me and the control freak in me would get upset. One year I caught my high school friends starting to decorate my locker and I demanded they stop. I still remember the hurt, disappointed looks they gave me.

I still struggle with pre-birthday depression. Now that Momcat is gone, my grief over losing her too soon is added to my emotional cocktail of regret, disappointment, and anger. I try to fight it and get excited about my birthday, make plans to do fun things. But sometimes you cannot fight the mean reds: they demand attention, a few tears, maybe an extra hour or two curled up in bed.

The thing about the mean reds is that they are based on fear, as Holly Golightly tells us. The frustrating part is that a trip to Tiffany doesn’t always make the fear go away. What I’ve found over the last year, though, is that the really awesome thing about getting to forty is my growing acceptance of what is and what should never be (to quote Led Zeppelin). Releasing my fear is an ongoing process, but  when combined with my ever-growing awareness that time is fleeting, it’s much easier to release those fears.

Last year I said that being fully engaged and present in every moment is the best gift I can give myself. I still believe that. And over the past year I have learned that it’s very unhelpful to beat myself up for all the moments when I have been afraid to stretch myself. What is helpful is to go do the big scary thing, whatever that might be, and accept the fact that the worst thing that can happen is nothing. It’s very much like Dorothy pulling aside the curtain and discovering the wizard is just a little man with a big machine.

Over the past few days I have been thinking a lot about this song by the Dixie Chicks. T-Wizzle gave me this CD and I listened to it many times in my car as I drove to a job I hated. This song has even more relevance to me now, because I have taken the long way to get where I am at today. And you know what? With all its struggles and fears, I like it here. I like it a lot.

It Was Forty Years Ago Today

I’ve been reflecting on many things as I enter my fourth decade on the planet. I never thought this is where I’d wind up: living in Northern CA, woefully underemployed, single, and way fatter than I should be.

Funny thing is, I feel so far from 40 that it’s shocking. This morning I woke up early, all excited and giggly, just as I did when I was still in the single digits. When a birthday meant a pizza party with your friend at Shakey‘s or cake and ice cream at Farrell’s, the drum pounding loudly and the sirens blaring as the servers rushed to your table with a blazing confection. When you’d finally get to unwrap the growing pile of presents sitting at the end of the dining room table, including a couple brown parcels from family who live far away. When the day felt so full of fun and the year ahead full of promise and opportunity.

I’m glad I feel so ecstatic and hopeful today, as opposed to the mood swings over the last couple months that I’ve been chalking up to a mid-life crisis. But as frustrating and painful as those moments of “what am I doing with my life, what does it all mean” have been, they have also forced me to be honest with myself about what the last forty years have brought me.

I’m not in a serious relationship, but I’m much more clear with my boundaries and I’m not tolerating bullshit from anyone I date the way I used to do.

I don’t have a full-time job, but I’ve gotten to work in several industries I was interested in, and I learned a lot about my abilities as a writer and publicist as a result.

Momcat is gone, and I hate that she’s not here for my big 4-0. I wonder if she would be teasing me or saying “You’re going to have to pick another age because I’m still 48.” But we were able to work out our issues several years before she died, and I am very grateful for that.

Out of all the eureka moments, the biggest epiphany to date has been in learning the value of the moment. Over the last six months my mind flashes back to experiences from my youth, my marriage, my career. I watch these memories flicker across my mental cinema and at times I long to recapture certain events on a more sensory level: the taste of Momcat’s cooking, the smell of Maryland air after a spring rainstorm, the sound of the Atlantic  crashing into me as I try to stay on Deena’s raft. Sometimes the effort of slipping back into those memories physically hurts. I worry that I didn’t appreciate those moments as much as I should have; that I wasn’t as present as I could have been.

Going forward, I want to remember this, that being fully engaged and present in every moment is the best gift I can give myself. I suspect awareness is also a Fountain of Youth, but I have yet to discover whether this is true. If my grandfather were still living, he’d likely say to me today, “You’re not over Fool’s Hill yet.” Nope, and you know what? That’s fine with me.