On the eve of the celebration of my birth, I write this as a gift to myself. Because I must.
I’m writing this from the cramped middle seat of a Frontiers flight from New York to Phoenix. I arrived in NY about two weeks ago when I fled the confines of Baltimore and the arresting new memories created there in such a short time. Like the buildings in the neighborhoods Uber drivers said to avoid, I had crumbled. My outsides were still standing, a tough brick house, but a peek through me to the inside would show floors destroyed, walls caved in, leaving craters in the structure allowing my heart to plunge to a pile of debris at the bottom.
When I look at those Victorian buildings, some built in the early 1900s, I can tell they were beautiful…then and now. The Indian (my ex-guy) would laugh at me callously, not understanding how I could look at a place he called a ” fucking dump” and see grandeur.
For my birthday this year, I only wanted one thing: to be a mom. I made this wish a year ago November 8th when I celebrated with my Prague College students. I blew out the candles on the thoughtful cake these kids pooled their Czech crowns for and wished. I came pretty close.
As I sit in Row 12, Seat E, I’m actually tormented. Not by the squeezed middle seat, but by a child. The one in Row 10, Seat E. She is screaming. SCRREAAMING a high-pitched violent jolt that punches you in the face after stabbing your ear drums first. This horrific sound mirrors my anxiety and I wonder if her young spirit knows something about this flight that we all should. I get more anxious. I try to block her out. I try to meditate her out. I hummmm. I chant. I start to lull-a-bye her with the “Go To Sleep” song, from Row 12. I direct my soothing vibration toward her, not wanting to judge the mother for not being able to do the same. With my eyes closed, the crumbling began again. A tarnished chandelier fell from a rotting ceiling, the weak cord that held it, giving way with a zip. Tears. Because I thought of the mom. And how I wasn’t going to be one. I thought about how happy she must have felt when she first learned her child was with her. I thought about how fulfilled she must have felt to watch her belly grow, to rub it each month with satisfaction and wonder. And how agonizingly euphoric she must have felt as her baby willed itself out of her and was placed in her arms. I wiped my face, told myself to “STOP IT!” and instead thought how helpless she must have felt now.
While October 10th took away my briefly-enjoyed birthday present and left me with a grief I have never known before and hope to never again, I still rejoice. I must.
I rejoice because I am loved. When my heart plunged (and my relationship imploded at the same time), my dear friend swept me up and deposited me in her warm home full of children and loving chaos (those of you that have, know). Their family din drowned out my own and I felt better. When it was quiet, when the kids were at school, I slumped to the sturdy wooden floors of her Baltimore home and cried; she cried with me. A true friend.
A director I worked with in Prague, who is from NY, screened her short film in which I starred. I Megabussed it to NY to enjoy our hard cinematic work and to escape myself. New York, my former home, brought me closer to more love. My cousin and my sister-girl, who was visiting from Prague: the three of us uncorked a bottle of wine and enjoyed the setting sun in the enclave of Central Park. Love.
I visited old work friends, the kind you call family. I saw my friend who was my very first acting partner. I love her. I hung out with my girls who started out as an LA support network and became sisters. I laughed, loved and cried over beers in Brooklyn with another friend who was catapulted onto a new path and appreciation for healed life due to f*ck(ing) cancer. I stayed with my BFF from college, where she let me disappear into the depths of her comfy bed at night while she slept on the couch. Love.
I came alive in the city I knew before, a stranger to what I had been as I searched for reminders and clues to who I would be now. Changed. In my journal, I wrote: Am I reinventing myself or am I enhancing who I already am?
I experienced all of these things while my birthday steadily approached. I was getting nervous. What was I going to do for my birthday? Where should I go? What should I do? How could I fill in what was missing? I knew I couldn’t have what I had really wanted. Those candles had been blown out. What I wanted was my own mom.
Thanks to a buddy pass from a friend, I was able to get my wish. I surprised mom with my presence on my birthday, just as I surprised her with my presence when she was a young 18 year old. Because, as I walked the streets of New York, with all those people and sights and sounds and buzz, I thought about how my mom must have felt when she learned of me. Thought about how bewildered she must have felt to watch her belly grow with me, to rub it each month with displaced satisfaction and wonder. And how agonizingly euphoric she must have felt when I, her baby, willed myself out of her and was placed in her arms. I thought about how she knew me and loved me longer than anyone else, and I wanted that.
I am happy, still, on this birthday. Thankful for what was and wasn’t and what will be. Because Birthdays are for love.
ps….thank you to everyone who has sent notes and hugs through the internet to me. I love you.