I was in the taxi with my kids yesterday, on our way to the movies. We were having a conversation about, of all things, my birthday. They both know how old I’m about to turn, 40–or as my daughter likes to say, “the big 4-0” and my son likes to remind me “that’s four decades, mom”–and they feel “it’s a big one.” So in the cab, they were debating the virtues of different celebrations, ideas and trips we should consider. This has been a rough year, as you may have previously read–and it’s hard to get up the gusto to want to celebrate in a manner that’s out of the ordinary right now. My answer was “it’s just a number, like any other…lets just do what we’ve always done.”
And then I saw a post from a friend the night before.
Here’s the back story on that… Some friends came over for dinner Saturday night. Not just any friends… A friend who I have literally known since we were four years old, her husband and child. And now our kids know and love each other. So as we were setting up the food, she breaks out a box as a “pre-birthday gift” and not just any box. An unmistakeable box.
I couldn’t help but start to cry. See, there used to be an Hermes in Grand Central Station, and once a week they would change their window display and me (being the obsessive freak that I am) would snap a photo every time I passed by and me (being the social media freak that I am) would post my photo to Instagram, tumblr, twitter, Facebook…
Around 1987, my parents and I were walking on around 57th and Fifth Avenue. There was still Bonwit Teller around the corner and a Gimbels was just a bit uptown. It was a weekend, probably a Sunday coming from brunch at a club my Dad belonged to, and as we made our way into a store I was about to fuss and get bored (as most 12-year-olds would) until I saw that the window had the most beautiful, most colorful scarves I had ever seen. Scarves didn’t even begin to describe them… they were works of art. Some of them even seemed to tell a story, and I had never before seen an article of clothing, let alone an accessory, do that…it would never even occur to me that one could.
Once we were inside my mother asked to see different scarves; up close, each one was even more incredible than the next—more ornate, softer, the colors more vibrant with every theme you could possibly imagine. I remember they even had a booklet that showed you different ways to twist and tie it into a variety of combinations—it didn’t even look like a scarf anymore, it was a canvas. My father bought my mother a blue and purply one I think it had men on horses or something. They boxed it up in a square orange box.
But I saw one in the case. It had a soft pink border and the print was so simple, just a collection of beautiful multicolor feathers. The saleslady gave me my own booklet and I searched for the feather scarf. Of course it was there. Photographed in different orientations, modeled in different poses and tied across a perfectly toned and trim model in a variety of ways. It was beautiful. The picture, the scarf, it was so light…as a feather.
A few weeks, or maybe it was even months, passed. I only thought about the scarf when I saw my mother had hers on. My middle school graduation was approaching. The life of an adolescent girl—braces, friends, school, boys, rinse, repeat. I was getting ready for the occasion: long white peasant skirt and matching top with embroidered bib front (from Putumayo), white ballet flats with bow (from Tip Top Shoes). I went to my mother’s hair dresser to get my hair french braided (it was the 80’s). But as we were getting ready to leave, my Dad said he wanted to give me my gift, because I might want to wear it, and he pulled out that square orange box. And inside was the soft pink bordered feather scarf, and it was mine.
That was the first time I opened a square orange box… the next time was a few days ago, this past Saturday when my friend, who probably did not know how meaningful, symbolic, dear and significant this gift would be to me. And in turn, I would not know how much giving would mean to her.
So getting back to that taxi, age may just be a number, and I may not feel much like celebrating right now… but boo-freakin’ hoo… perhaps celebrating isn’t about my happiness. Perhaps it’s about the joy it brings others. So I guess I’m down. Whatever you guys want to do, plan, think would be fun…that sounds great… I’m game. Let’s do this. Let’s kick this birthdays’ butt.
I’ll be the one in the pink scarf.
Taxi in Traffic || Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net || courtesy of Damian Brandon