It’s odd, to be sure..but for years on this day the refrain from an old Lesley Gore song from the 1960’s plays in my head for the better part of the day:
“….It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you...”
Why this song?
Well, today is my birthday. And, not just mine.
I did not enter the world alone. Nor did I spend nine months in utero alone.
Today is also my brother’s birthday. Yep. Our Italian mamma had twins and one could argue that she never forgave us for it!
The story goes that she didn’t know she was carrying twins and that story is quite plausible. Fifty-six years ago there was no such thing as sonograms…and of course, there was no learning the sex of the baby months before it’s entrance into the world. There weren’t pregnancy stick kits or lamaze classes; and, father’s were relegated to pacing the hospital halls outside of the delivery room instead of being part of the whole birth scene. Anyhow, I’m fairly certain that the technology of the day meant that all the doctor had to go on was his stethoscope and a mother’s weight gain. In our case, our mamma says she was getting mighty big quickly but the doctor felt she was eating her way there and put her on a strict diet. I’ll wager my life savings that our mamma smoked while we were in her belly (OK. It’s fair to say lots of mother’s did then) and that, as well as controlled eating was why my brother and I came into the world exceptionally puny, essentially the combined weight of one baby, not two. Brother was under four pounds and had to call an incubator home for the better part of three weeks. I topped out at 4 pounds and was lucky to go home much sooner.
Mamma tells the story that she was in labor for 48-hours. I’m not sure that is entirely accurate, after all, Italians love to embellish and exaggerate and my mamma is pretty good at both. But one thing is certain, no one knew there were two babies. Mamma, having been knocked out for the delivery, literally “came too” after the ordeal was over and was met with a nurse offering two fingers, suggesting the peace sign, or “V” as in victory for an end to the whole traumatic business of labor and delivery. In actuality, mamma didn’t speak English and the nurse didn’t speak Italian. The nurse was trying to convey TWO BABIES. One boy, one girl. Two babies.
Our mother said she never recovered from the shock.
I’m told that our Italian grandparents, Iris and Pio, were ecstatic and of course our father had to run out the very next day and buy seconds of everything. I’m really not sure how our father felt about the whole twins business. My father has been gone for a number of years now (God rest his soul) and before his passing I’d spent the better part of nearly 40 years estranged from him. He was filled with some pretty dark demons and our mamma had her own so my brother and I didn’t have what one would call a nurturing childhood. I’m being exceedingly diplomatic here. It was filled with enough sadness, anger, neglect and violence that honestly, there is a whole chunk of childhood that I cannot even recall. It’s better that way I suppose, although I will confess that I once considered hypnosis. I chickened out at the last moment; better to leave that box hermetically sealed.
So today folks, I am well aware of having more years behind me than ahead of me. I’m well aware that my life so far has not produced any profound contributions to the world save two children….
I am well aware that I have a lot more learning to do and more growing to do too…
There is still time to be a better person…a better wife…a better friend….a better sibling…. and I am simply grateful for each moment that I am still here. It’s sounds like such a cliché…I know…but it IS a journey. Despite this whole living in middle-earth chapter, I really am working to find a measure of happiness and peace. This journey is all about baby steps….just a wee bit more trying each day.
I don’t have much money. I don’t have a distinguished career that defined me. I don’t have a plethora of accomplishments to boast about and I don’t have an address book full of friends. I’ve spent most of my 56 years surviving. I’ll be honest ….I’ve fought that label for many years; I knew that was what I was doing but I didn’t have the confidence to shake it nor rise above it. It’s still a struggle. But strangely enough, I am just beginning to find a measure of peace with “surviving.” What’s wrong with surviving? Yes…my journey, so far, (never say never, right!?) has not produced anything in the way of fame, fortune or recognition but maybe because of my painful childhood it was never meant to. Surviving in itself is quite possibly my greatest accomplishment. My path could have taken some horrific turns; I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude that I managed to keep myself from going off the deep end at every turn.
Sure, I have my down-in-the-dump days…. but today I vowed to not let surviving be a negative label. I vowed to not play my pity party violin because I am spending yet another birthday alone. As soon as my feet hit the ground in the early morning hours Lesley Gore’s party song was playing in my head and I was dancing around the bedroom
….and before I had a chance to sing it again my sis sends me a video of my sweet nephew singing me “Happy Birthday.” Ten degrees, plus, of Bliss!
Ten minutes later a face-time chat with my sister and my nephew. Bliss.
A five-mile walk-jog with the poodle….Bliss.
A Starbucks latte and free Starbucks birthday treat….Bliss.
An invitation out for dinner….Bliss.
A phone call from my bro-in-law, my friend Lou, my mom, my daughter, AND my twin…alll wishing me a happy birthday….nice….Bliss.
A chocolate cake that sits on the counter in its little white box….OH….that will be the pièce de résistance kind of bliss in a couple of hours from now….
….paired with a hearty glass of red wine, that is.
Cheers. Happy Birthday to me….and my twin. Let’s hope this year will be full of new adventures in the art of surviving for both of us!