This week I turned 50 and it was NOT what I expected. I guess if you’d asked me to picture my 50th birthday, I would’ve imagined music, food, drinks… people standing sipping champagne, talking, eating, laughing… maybe dancing, maybe a garden or beach, maybe a big buffet or an intimate dinner (many of my favourite moments have been in the quiet company of people close to me)…
I didn’t imagine lockdown, and us still shielding someone and not able to party. And then, when we did know we’d be in lockdown, I imagined a quiet day of nothing unusual, and that didn’t happen either.
I had the most incredible day.
First up, let me reassure anyone approaching 50 that honestly, it feels fine. I feel the same as when I was 30 – if I can ignore mirrors, it’s hard to tell the difference. It’s definitely something to look forward to!
I was enormously lucky to be woken up by a call from my lovely brother, and to get up to hugs from my children, delicious coffee from the OH, and a call from my parents. I know what a privilege that is.
I had a lie-in, I relaxed. Again, a massive privilege and not one I’ll ever take for granted.
My children are my world and they gave me their whole day (and a crazy-good home-made cake).
Gifts appeared on my doorstep from local friends who have charted the early years of parenthood with me and become my co-adventurers. (These gifts were all fruity booze: redcurrant vodka, rhubarb and ginger gin – my friends are heroes!) I took calls from distant friends: a text from a friend from an engineering course 35 years ago, where we met as gangly teens, an email and postcard from someone I’ve known since I was 19, both active current friends. Texts and FB messages from old friends whom I met when I was 4, 12, 15, 16, 19, 33, 36, 40, 43 years old… invitations to meet on the beaches, 2m-distant bubble gatherings. Calls to catch up in the week, plans to have a party later in the year….
DMs full of love and kind wishes from extended family and friends, running club buddies who are looking forward to getting together when we can, circuits class friends who share my birthday, and literary lovelies on Twitter.
All day. All day, reminders of the fabulous, lovely people I’ve had in my life for fifty whole years. And they are lovely, these people – they are more lovely than I think I’d ever realised before. The people in my life are what make it real, textured, worthwhile, magical. they bring me out of myself and make the world feel whole and good.
And we were in lockdown, so I had time to respond. I asked how they were, had a chance to swap a few hellos with my two closest friends when I was four years old. As we nervously stared around our new primary school classroom in 1975, could we have known that we’d be swapping hellos 46 years later? My BF at Uni, who scooped me up when I forgot to arrange anywhere to live (yeah, whoops), still there for me, still saying damn we haven’t seen each other for too long (but we will, and it will be as if we’d never spent a day apart). My girl friends from age 12 through 19 who charted the teen years with me and sobbed snotty vodka tears over lost boyfriends. And my newer friends – people who in recent years have become close and just as magical as the others – the ones who holiday with us now, share our pool of children, swim with me in the coldest seas, and push me to run past all my limits. The fab people I’ve met through school, parents and staff, who’ve stood beside me and watched kids do crazy, brilliant, and straight-up ridiculous things. My lovely, incredible friends. I’ll swim with some, walk up hills with some. I’ll run up hills with quite a lot of them, and they’ll see me sweat and swear and none of these people, not a single one, needs me to look cool or act intelligent or be anything other than the scruffy, messy, flawed blob that I am.
And to top it all, a wahoo-incredible teacher friend called to say that my child who had lost his European music tour due to lockdown had won the record label artist of the year award that would be presented in an Instagram Award Ceremony: whooo! Champagne yes please would be rude not to.
My year, like many others’, has been tough and, knocked out by shingles, I was as exhausted as I was happy on my birthday; I spent it with my children, lying on a beach in my bikini while the sun baked me back to feeling well and whole, and my kids nudged me down to the ocean, urged me in – we’re reaching the stage where they’re starting to lead me and they lead well.
My 50th birthday, against the odds, was full of family and friends – thank you to everyone who made that happen – for a life full of love and friendship. As the day wore on, I realised, this is happiness. I’ve made it; this is what we look for, and I’ve found it in all the people I know.