Saturday, December 12, 2009


Another birthday hoves into sight, like the dangerous rocks on the landing shore, glimpsed through the slantwise curtain of gray rain in a cataclysmic storm. Watch out! There’s no way to avoid the collision now! Ahhh----

No, no way to avoid the piling up of years, is there? A friend sent me an e-mail picturing a befuddled gray-hair with the caption, “Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the fuck happened?” That about says it.

When one’s birthday is elided with another, somewhat more famous anniversary (oh, just this guy everyone keeps talking about, his birthday December 25), and the end of the year, with its wistful nostalgia melting into hopeful prognostication, one is apt to be slightly mystical. Even if one is a stone atheist.

A couple of years ago, this person was clinging to every form of voodoo there is, from fortunes in cookies to newspaper horoscopes. There was a heart milagros taped to her front door, and at dinner she made sure to light the Fast Luck and Siete Potencias and superscary Most Powerful Hand candles. (Notwithstanding the word “Alleged” appended to the Lucky 13 candle, lest one feel moved to sue the Goya company after failing to hit the big scratch-off or win the girl of one’s dreams after burning the wick well into the wax.)

These things felt necessary, because there was nothing else to hang onto in order to not fall down, down, into some unfathomable abyss. Since the basic truth of daily life that had been operated upon for years and years had vaporized one day, it seemed just as likely suddenly that dice and stars knew what was what. Better than she did.

But sometime after last year's birthday, the world slowly started to right itself. There were invisible winches at work, slowly moving the surface on which everything rested back to horizontal. But she has not lost the taste for hope, and will take it from whatever source gives it.

Tonight she reenters the world of portents and for the first time in a year lays out the tarot cards on the amateur’s cheat sheet.

If I don’t like the answer the Magic Eight Ball gives, I turn it over and try again. Eventually, “It is certain” shows up in the inky window, and I know “Will I be able to write something good?” or “Am I to find love?” will have the outcome I desire. Surely one can trust the Eight Ball to know these things. I can sleep.

If I don’t like the way these cards tell my future, I’ll do it two more times. Isn’t this a best-of-three game?

I can reason my way around anything, even the opening “Caution about the present” card. Of course I am being cautious. Aren’t I? Well, yes, in my usual incautious manner of approaching anything. It is the last card that tells the truth, however. I do not need to shuffle the deck again, hurrah. “A good augury.” I will take it. I can live on auguries in the absence of proofs. It is all I need, along with all I already have.


ren said...

Bon anniversaire, Cherie! Although my own birthday this year scared me with its number, it had provoked me into doing the year-long project that I'm doing, sort of as a statement saying, "Hah! Another year?! Just watch, I will go through many more!" Meanwhile, birthdays at this time of year do carry with them the burden of getting lost in the blizzard of end-of-year so-called holidays. We should gather all of our friends who have birthdays at this time of year (actually, why not ALL of our friends) and have a big bash sometime in, say, August. Now THAT would be a party, a holiday with some real meaning to it!

Steve said...

I will confess that as a child I sensed that I was slighted by a birthday during the holiday season. Gifts were (at least in my perception) “for your birthday and Christmas”; it didn’t seem fair. As an adult (and that is subject to discussion :-) ) it is just another day. Another measurement, an increment of my life that clicks the odometer over one more time. A way to distinguish me from all of the other Steves that have my last name; I wonder how many of there are, and if any have my birth day.

Because of the timing I have most frequently found myself observing the day in conjunction with an obligatory holiday gathering, so I usually don’t do “something special” for my birthday. However, a warm, sunny birthday celebration might be just the thing to make it something to anticipate. In August; of course! :-) Shared with good friends and some friends I haven’t met yet. Maybe birthdays are OK after all.

Happy Birthday Melissa!

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Happy Birthday to all of us, then! Yes, August party here for us, OK? I'll fire up the barbie.

One thing we can do that other, non-Decembrists can't is to *privately* and secretly dedicate (in our minds) a gift or other ritual to ourselves. Thus, the annual procurement of a tree is something I give to myself, on my birthday.

As for the passage of years, and the way that can start to feel like a heavier burden at times--
Well, I was going to mine this for one of my patented "beautiful gift in ugly wrapping paper" spiels. But I'll spare you. And instead, wish both of you (and everyone else out there with one of these milestones coming up) only one thing: happiness to be exactly where you are, and what you are.

Kevin G. said...

Next year some old friends and I will turn fifty…… hopefully. Maybe I’ll get me one of those fancy electric vests. They better make them with an upside-down taper.
I guess none of us is ever going to make the world spin the other way. But with a glimmer of hope, some faith in invisible winches and more people like you, we might help improve our own small corner of it.
Have a happy birthday Melissa. Let there be cake!

Peter said...

Ah ha! I should have known. So this is where Melissa hangs out; in her playhouse, scribing with her buddies rather than writing e-mails.

Speaking about Decemberists, Jim Morrison was born the same day John Lennon died, the 8th. That doesn't mean anything but I tend to ponder things that don't mean anything.

By the way, that August party plan is a great idea but I suspect a bit of a scam going on; Ren's birthday is in August. But then I guess that means she was conceived in December, so maybe she is somehow connected to the plight of snow babies.

Happy birthday to you and John and Jesus and Santa and Steve, and happy exitday to Jim and happy conceptionday to Ren.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Welcome to the secret clubhouse, Peter. Here meet misanthropes, the maladjusted, and motorcyclists. We have a large stash of Crackerjack, an air rifle, and several slingshots. We share tasteless jokes and breathless anecdotes.

I spend a lot of my time in this spider-filled space out in the woods. (But I am not averse to maintaining the private blog, either; I'm just slow.) Tune in for this weekend's installment here, where you make an appearance. An apple and a copy of "As I Lay Dying" if you see where I put you.