A SINGULAR LIFE
By ASHA GILL
Birthdays have suddenly become such a big deal. I am not sure if we are suddenly finding life more precious or we just need more excuses to celebrate elaborately because we are so dissatisfied. Do we need to mark our life so distinctly in the hope that it will spur on a much-needed change? Have birthdays become a second New Year, an event to be anticipated and organised, only to wake up the next day feeling exactly the same?
Last week, I had some very interesting conversations with my parents about birthdays. I asked my father whether he remembered turning 40. He said he did, but also remembered we weren’t all that bothered for him. Yikes, what horrible children we were! Then I talked to my mum to ask her why we were so crap for both their 40th birthdays. (Yes, I still turn to my mum for answers!) Mum’s take on it was that it has only become a recent phenomenon to make such a big fuss over birthdays.
It seems that until recently, depending on which country you come from, 16 and 21 were ages to be celebrated, and in other countries it would be those “rite of passage” ages. After that, 50 seemed to be the year to notice. Fifty marked the dividing line of entering a new era. The border crossing that leads you gently into grandparenthood, retirement and beyond.
So I wasn’t sure how turning 40 made me feel or what I was supposed to do. Did I make it a day to remember, was it a pivotal point in my life to address what was lacking and rejoice in what was achieved? I think I was more excited about the fact that a full moon was due to sparkle its shiny magic upon me on the “big day” itself.
In fact, I scoured astrological meanings to see if any great portent was to be bestowed upon me for having “La Luna” grace me in all her full glory.
Sadly, even the whack-job sites Google whipped up for me weren’t much to shout about. I was certainly not going to turn into a werewolf nor was I going to crash headlong into a moneypot at the end of a psychedelic rainbow.
Clinging to 39, I grasped for a sense of whether I was supposed to sit with a bottle of Pinot and sift through the past 20-odd years or so, or just make some new plans up. Was I then to write down any regrets and build a pyre to “metaphorically” burn them up and let them go?
This was still churning through my head the day I woke up as a 40-year-old. However, pure joy and contentment overwhelmed me when the Little Man presented me with breakfast he had made himself. Why stress over the past when the future is far more interesting? It brought with it a child who apologised for not making me tea to go with breakfast because hot water was dangerous and could melt him. But that he would make me tea when he was 12.
I decided I would dip my toes into the new zero year with a quiet chuckle and be done with it. But my darling family had other plans. Since there were three birthdays within days of each other, my mum’s, mine and my beloved sister in arms, Sue, a surprise was organised. We were to be whisked away to sun, sea and sand for a blissful weekend.
For all the thought and planning that went into this retreat, the reality was a descent into a Faulty Towers marathon.
The day we arrived saw us sharing our piece of heaven with a few hundred guests from a cruise ship which docked for the afternoon. We bade a quick retreat to the poolside and, over Long Island iced teas, we tried to avert our eyes from men resplendent in all their white “Y”-fronted glory jumping into our oasis. Hell, they might as well have just donned their birthday suits and joined us in our celebrations for all that was NOT hidden after they got wet!
From that moment on, things went from cringe-tastic to simply hysterical. Every minute of every day was filled with comical episodes that kept us all laughing so hard until it hurt. And we hurt a lot. I will spare you the gory details of the adventures of the “Wet Dog Crew” but I will share this with you.
What we all walked away with was not a nostalgia-drenched ache for the island, but a string of perfect togetherness moments. It is the people around you that can turn farcical mediocrity into pure gold. And that marks a moment in your history. Not the age you are turning or the things you haven’t done yet. But, folks, that can make you laugh so hard that it hurts, like heaven.
Family isn’t always blood alone and age isn’t always a reason you need to celebrate life. To my sister Jenine and my friend Joyce, thank you for constantly showing me what love and family mean. To everyone who is my family by blood or choice, my Little Man is an amazing human being because of how you lead by example. I cannot thank you enough.
Asha Gill put her globetrotting life on hold to focus on the little man in her life and gain a singular perspective on the world. You can tune in to Asha’s show Eat, Love, Play on Capital FM 88.9, Mondays to Fridays, 10am-1pm. She’s always looking for stories to tell and ideas to share, so send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.