Thursday, November 29, 2007

51 Memories on my 51st Birthday

Today is my (gasp!) 51st birthday. When I read those words, "my 51st birthday," I feel completely disconnected from them. They can't possibly refer to me because 51 has always meant old, ugly, washed-up, and pathetic -- and call me delusional, but I refuse to believe that any of those things apply to me.

To commemorate the day, I've decided to attempt an idea that I saw over at Mighty Girl's blog. She wrote a one or two-sentence description for each year of her life. The fact that my memory can dredge up 51 specific memories for 51 specific years means that I'm still young, quick and spry, doesn't it? (Or does the fact that I just used the word "spry" negate any and all claims to youth?)

So, to wit:

Age 1: I arrive 10 1/2 months after the birth of my brother. Guess who was a boo-boo?

Age 2: My oldest brother was pulling me around the garage in a wagon. Something caught his attention and he let go of the wagon, sending me down the steep sloped driveway and into the street, right into the path of an 18-wheeler, narrowly missing it.

Age 3: I became a big sister. I wanted a sister, but I got another brother. That made three boys and me.

Age 4: I started kindergarten, along with my brother who, at 5, was still young but a more appropriate age than me. I've always assumed Mom wanted us both in school ASAP. I can't believe they let me start school that young!

Age 5: Ricky, a family friend, gave me a ring from the Elmwood Dime Store and asked me to marry him. The "sizing" on the back of the ring pinched my skin so I took it off.

Age 6: My baby brother and I went to live in Sacramento with my aunt and uncle while my mother took my older brothers to Germany. Dad stayed in Berkeley. I later learned that Mom had an affair with a family friend in Germany, unbeknownst to anyone at the time.

Age 7: My second 2nd grade teacher (of course I ended up paying for starting school too young by repeating a year!), Mrs. Burnett, insisted that I hold my pencil way up by the eraser. Or at least that's how I remember it.

Age 8: I had an African-American third grade teacher, who I adored. I think she was the only African-American teacher in Berkeley, certainly the only one in our very white school, even though integration was on the horizon.

Age 9: I remember looking down my dress while the teacher was reading a book to us. 'I'm sprouting something,' I thought to myself. The teacher yelled at me, telling to get my "head out of my dress." I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

Age 10: I started my period waaaay too young (I thought), in 4th grade. That day, Mom announced it proudly to my dad and brothers at dinner. I was mortified!

Age 11: I'd wake up early and sneak into my brother's room to steal not one but TWO white t-shirts from his dresser. They hid my bra strap under my white see-through blouse. Are you catching that I resisted my budding womanhood?!

Age 12: I was a serious flautist and very much into classical music. Just a typical 7th grader. NOT. I existed for Peter Jaffe, who never even spoke to me! My first thought when my parents told me that we'd be moving from Berkeley to the Peninsula, was that I'd never get my chance with Peter -- and I was right.

Age 13: I received my first kiss from Ken Johnson. (Many years later the story of that kiss was published by the Seattle Times, and also won a contest here.)

Age 14: My teen rebellion took the form of being very straight-laced and conservative because that was the most dramatic way I could rebel against very liberal Berkeley parents. Think Alex(a) Keaton!

Age 15: In continuing teen rebellion, I tried out for the varsity cheerleading squad at school (a high school extra-curricular activity -- how American!). When I made the squad, my first thought was that'll show them that I'm no hippie!

Age 16: Because I repeated 2nd grade years before, I was the oldest in my class, thus the first to get my driver's license. This was very cool!

Age 17: I joined Young Life asked my parents for a Bible for my birthday -- (organized religion -- how rebellious!).

Age 18: I graduated from high school in the Bay Area and started college in Santa Barbara. The beach and sun every day? And cute boys too? This was bliss!

Age 19: I met Tom, my husband, when he was an Resident Assistant in my dorm. He used to think it was funny to stuff me in cabinets and drawers. I think it's funny (looking back) that I fit in them! Lost of giggly girls had crushes on Tom, but I was definitely most persistent.

Age 20: I went to Disneyland for the first time, even though I'd lived in California all my life.

Age 21: I was taken out for my first legal drink at a restaurant called "1129" on my birthday, which falls on the date 11/29. I always felt a kinship with that restaurant on State Street in Santa Barbara and wonder if it's still there.

Age 22: I graduated from college with a degree in psychology and absolutely no clue what to do with it, except that I knew that I wanted to work with kids.

Age 23: I went to Germany alone for 8 weeks and fell madly in love at first sight. The romance lasted almost two years; the friendship has lasted a lifetime.

Age 24: I went to grad school at Stanford and got a Masters degree in education with an emphasis in educational media. This is still my "chosen field."

Age 25: I had my first career job, at Walt Disney Educational Media Company (WDEMCO), producing stuff like educational filmstrips and comic books for kids.

Age 26: Tom and I got married at the Wayfarer's Chapel in Palos Verdes, CA.

Age 27: Elisabeth was born! It was a crowded weekend at the hospital with something like 30 babies born over the long Memorial Day weekend, and OUR baby was voted "cutest on the ward" by the nurses! Cutest, yes. But they voted her fartiest, too (Some things never change!)

Age 28: Surprisingly (since I had a new baby at home), this was one of the most productive years of my career. I designed and/or produced three games with Sierra Online, two with Looking Glass Software, and TEN with Panasonic. The Panasonic games never saw the light of day because the company decided not to go down the personal computer road. We still have the prototype keyboard under Aleks' bed; it weighs a ton!

Age 29: We live in a rented house in Westchester, CA, less than a mile from LAX. The cadence of our conversations allowed for 747s to pass overhead -- talking, silence/waiting, resume... repeat. We thought $150,000 was just too dang much to spend on a tiny house that was built in 1946, so we didn't buy. (We also didn't buy because we didn't have a down payment.)

Age 30: Peter was born. Unlike Elisabeth, who was feisty, active and verbal, he was calm, quiet and reflective, right from day one.

Age 31: I opened my own business, Sandcastle Designs, and created games for The learning Company. But mostly I was a mommy -- and absolutely loving it!

Age 32: We bought a house in the 'burbs and moved from LA to North San Diego county. I quit all work and immersed myself in the joys of motherhood, from Mommy and Me classes to swimming lessons.

Age 33: After a crazy pregnancy, Aleks and Kat were born on the exact day and the exact moment that the Berlin Wall came down! Now we have four kids under the age of five!

Age 34: I have no clue. It's all a blur. But I do know that this was the beginning of being completely out of touch with popular culture -- music, fashions, TV shows, all of it. I did mommying and little else -- and I adored every minute of it, even in the throes of it all.

Age 35: I had surgery (an abdominoplasty) to repair the abdominal damage due to the twin pregnancy. They removed a bunch of skin, repaired the muscles, and stole my belly button, replacing it with a fake one. I had looked 6 (or more?) months pregnant until the surgery.

Age 36: We went camping at the beach with all four kids. I remember coming home completely exhausted, vowing never again. It took four days to pack and four days to unpack and do laundry for a two-day trip. (Think camping gear plus an incredible amount of kid gear, from clip on high chairs to cribs to strollers.)

Age 37: We moved from San Diego (sun, water, palm trees) to Eastern Washington (tumbleweed, dust, extreme temperatures). We buy our dream house, which we love, but when we open the door, we're greeted by -- well, by tumbleweed, dust, and extreme temperatures. Tom hated working at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where his masters degree in Environmental Engineering was touted and shown off to federal officials, but he actually did nothing and was bored stiff.

Age 38: I studied to become a Certified Childbirth Educator and I taught childbirth classes at the local hospital.

Age 39: We moved from what Tom calls "the armpit of Washington" (the dry Eastern side) to the lush, green Western part of the state. As soon as we closed escrow on our new house, Tom fell victim to a company wide lay-off at the consulting firm that had just hired him. Two weeks later a huge tree from two properties over fell on our house, rendering much of it unlivable and totaling both cars in the driveway, one of which contained all the kids' Christmas presents.

Age 40: I went back to my educational media career, working at Edmark, and designed a cute game called Carnival Countdown.

Age 41: I taught childbirth classes at the very progressive local hospital and certified to become a doula with esteemed educator and writer Penny Simkin (I'll bet she wrote the textbook for your childbirth class!), who was also on the board of the hospital's Family Maternity Center.

Age 42: I was the Lead Educational Design Consultant for the Blue's Clues computer games. Possibly as a result of working on such fun, youthful games, I was carded at Rite Aid! (Never mind that the sales woman wore glasses as thick as a Coke bottle... )

Age 43: I'm caught up in the Seattle start-up frenzy, hired over lattes and promised fame and fortune. In one year, I work for three different start-ups, each promising more than the last. In the end, I come out with nothing but worthless stock certificates and an unemployment claim.

Age 44: My mother and I plan a trip to Germany, just the two of us. It's the first time I'd leave my family for more than a few days. Two weeks before we're to leave, Mom is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. We postpone the trip, saying we'll go next year. I secretly don't believe we will.

Age 45: Mom goes into remission and we go to Germany and have the most amazingly fabulous, wonderful time. We feel like sisters. I start work as a producer and product manager at a local health education non-profit.

Age 46: At my brother's wedding, a dear friendship from my childhood is rekindled and Luki and I share a wonderful e-mail correspondence. My husband thinks it's fine and supports my old/new friendship; his wife, however, forbids him to communicate with me in any way. I still miss him every day.

Age 47: I am the Executive Producer of FUEL, a DVD series for teens about body image, self-esteem and the media, as well as nutrition, activity and positive activism. My kids, teens by now, help by telling me what's cheesy and what works. It wins awards and I'm proud.

Age 48: FUEL's sister product, CHILL, which addresses teen stress, wraps production. I feel completely in my element and love producing. Who cares about the 2+ hour daily commute?!

Age 49: The non-profit decides to eliminate their product development department to focus on a new non-product-oriented venture. I am laid off and heart-broken.

Age 50: I work a contract job as a Program Manager at Microsoft. Odd place! Now that the kids are almost adults, we decide to take a family vacation to Hawaii. We have a blast!

Age 51: The kids are now officially grown (but thankfully often still around) and, after a short stint as a Senior Program Manager with a Gates Foundation partnership company, the year is spent mostly unemployed.

I'm glad for my hopeless optimism...

And now I think I'll take a long bubble bath, something I've done every single night for as long as I can remember -- most likely for all of my 51 years. I'll soak especially appreciatively in the gardenia bubble bath that Kat just gave me, well aware of the blessed life I have lived and the the wonderful family that surrounds me.

I absolutely dread the possibility that next year I might have to add "Age 52: Empty nest..."

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15 comments:

Betsy said...

Happy birthday, Carol!!!

Next year you'll probably be writing:

"New job, new hobby, new lease on life!"

Hope this becomes your best year yet! :-)

vailian said...

Hey, girl, have a great one!!
I must have crossed that Great Senile Divide because I don't think I could come up with a memory for each year.. at least, I am no longer 100% certain which year my memories belong to.

Fon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
christina said...

Happy, Happy Birthday! Has it been a year already?

Maria said...

Happy Birthday!

susan said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Fun memories...I don't think that I could do that!

Ambra Celeste said...

What a wonderful birthday post! Buon compleanno!!! I hope you have a grande festa!

Juanita said...

Happy, happy birthday, Carol. Have a great day!

Dixie said...

You've had a full, happy life. Hope the other half is just a wonderful!

Happy birthday!

gawilli said...

Happy Birthday, Carol! I am just rounding out 51 and will be 52 in a few weeks. It was a good year!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Great glimpse into your life. I hope it's been a wonderful day!

Wuttisak said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rositta said...

A very Happy Birthday to you Carol, I too feel like I know you just from your blog. Have a lovely time, nice looking cake...ciao

Goofball said...

Happy belated birthday.

Wow what a list you made, what an effort, but very cool. Nice to have such a list. It is a good way for us to get to know you a little better :)

Princess Cat's Pajamas said...

Happy belated birthday!

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