On the cusp….

50-birthday cake
Too many candles, courtesy of Pinterest

In less than 24 hours, I’ll be 60 years old.

How the hell did that happen?

It feels like just a few years ago, I was 16, 20, 24, 33, 47….55….and now, all of a sudden, I can almost see the light at the end of the retirement tunnel.

That always seemed so far away.

How the hell did I get here?

I have vague and scattered memories of childhood celebrations—cupcakes for the class,

candy sticks
Yum!  Courtesy of thecandystore.com

and those hard candy sticks that are almost like a lollipop shaped like a fat pencil—the ones you get in the old-timey stores that come in flavors like watermelon and cherry and blueberry, the ones that leave your lips and tongue hideous shades of whatever flavor you’ve just consumed.  You always had to bring enough to share with everyone in the class.

Actual parties? I don’t remember any. And I don’t really recall any of the teen years’ parties, which would have more than likely been with my friends or the boyfriend (“the”, because I only had one in high school).

I spent my 20th birthday with a Turkish man in New York City.

I had just moved into the city, into my first home-away-from-home apartment.  I was sorting through boxes and I recall it was a beautiful hot sunny day (I just looked it up it was a Sunday, as I thought; I still remember it had that lazy kind of Sunday feel to it).

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My first apt was here, on the inside (courtesy Cityrealty.com)

Anyway, the man was my neighbor.  He was old, by my standards–probably 30 or even 35 (!), and very good looking in a dark, broody, butterflies-in-the-stomach sort of way–dark hair and eyes, olive-coloured skin, tall and trim…he was one of those guys that when he looked at you, he really looked at you, maybe looked into you, if that’s possible.

My apartment was on the top floor of the building, the sixth; it was a L-shaped studio (one big room with a little dog leg for the bed) at the corner of the block of the building that looked in to an inner courtyard, and his was at the right angle to mine.  He had a balcony and was a smoker, (so was I,  at the time) and so I caught glimpses of him throughout the morning; my little flat had no outdoor space,  but it came with a full bank of windows, and at one point, he was outside having a cigarette, and when I moved past the windows, I looked up and caught his eye.

He was wearing a crisp, white Oxford shirt, open at the collar and out of his pants and sleeves rolled to just below the elbows (you know the look), a pair a faded jeans that fit just right, and he was barefoot.  He looked as though he had just come out of the shower, his black hair falling in loose, damp curls around his face.

Turned out he was a Middle Eastern Studies professor from NYU.  He offered to show me the campus, and, at that point, looking for an excuse to escape from unpacking,  and well, to wander the Village with this man–I quickly agreed.  We walked together down Fifth Avenue, where we strolled under the arch in Washington Square Park, making idle conversation along the way, as he pointed out some of his favorite places to eat, to drink, to read–and I tried to picture him doing all those things as he talked.

As we got to the west side of the park, he took my arm and gently led me to a small building nestled behind the quiet tree-lined street (remember, it was early summer and a Sunday, so the usual student traffic was virtually non-existent).

I can’t remember exactly where or what it was (maybe someone reading this can tell me, if they haven’t torn it down to put in a tower—I hear NYU is taking over down there), but the entryway was covered in mosaic tiles—cobalt blues and whites and greens and gold in intricate patterns—and it was cool and dark and quiet and beautiful–like nothing I’d even seen.  After we talked in the shadowy entryway–for a long time, as I recall–he took me to a small quiet coffee shop on a side street where he bought me a Turkish coffee…

And that was it; we walked back and he went his way and I went mine. I don’t know that I ever saw him again after that.

I bet you thought this was going somewhere deeper, more intense, more…something, didn’t you?  Ha! Sorry to disappoint!  But not a bad adventure for my first weekend as a New Yorker.

Anyway…I digress yet again.

I don’t remember what I was doing when I turned 30, but I’m sure it didn’t worry me.  I wasn’t a mom yet, I was relatively newly married, I’m pretty sure I was employed at the time, and I’m guessing life was pretty good (don’t get me wrong, life is still pretty good–actually better than good).

When I turned 40, I remember that I was nervous that my (then) husband and (current) son were planning something big to mark the date; so when they picked me up from work that day, I told them I had changed my mind about the restaurant we were going to.  I guess I thought they might have some sort of plot to throw a surprise party. Silly me—my son was only seven and my husband, well….it wasn’t about me, I guess.  Despite the fact that I don’t like to make a big deal about my birthdays, I was a little disappointed…perhaps that it only meant something to me.

50 was the start of a new era.  I had set a couple of goals (not like my friend Kim, who struck an ambitious list of 50--she’s close to finishing and I have no doubt she will).  One was to see all 50 states, and I did that.  Another was embarrassingly material and selfish, and it involves a vehicle.  We’ll check that one off too, and not say any more about it. There were a couple of others I can ‘t recall but I’m fairly certain I hit the marks on those too–they must not have been very ambitious or terribly difficult to attain.

Ten years ago, social media was just becoming popular and I reconnected through it with some of my childhood friends.  Over the course of that year, there were monthly birthday celebrations—different people each time, but a core group in any case—and I think I managed to get to two or three that year. I know I was there for the June celebration, as I have a photo of us at a winery.

50-birthday at wolffer
Here were some of us at 50.

That started our connection to each other, and I know the group at home gets together fairly often (I’m sure they see each other around town too—it’s not that big a place), and this year I’ve already been to two of the get togethers (they’re very kind, and if I give them enough warning, they plan the event for when I’m there). Hats off to them and much appreciated, chicas!

60-bdays
Birthdays are fun with friends, especially when we’re all turning the same age!

So….now I’m about to be 60.  I’m heading out for a trip on my own, to a place I’ve never been and will write about another time, and will end up at the June celebration a little later in the month.  While I can’t say I’m thrilled about this milestone, I really can’t wait to see them all. Maybe it’s because we’re in this together, but I think it’s more about who they are.

So…What are my resolutions for the next decade?

I am going to get healthy.  I’ve put on some weight and now it’s not about appearance; it’s about health.

I am going to travel. I’m going to travel to the places I want to go that take a level of wellness—Machu Picchu for example, before my knees and/or lungs give out. Some more exotic places that will take some stamina, a level of both physical and mental strength,  and a spirit for crazy adventure—India, Russia, Antarctica, South Africa, Turkey, perhaps back to Cuba. Some places where I have friends who can show me the sights—Australia and New Zealand, Egypt, the Netherlands.  Some places that might not exist in another decade—the Seychelles and Maldives, some low-lying Caribbean islands. Some places alone, and others with friends or in a group.

And dammit, I’m going back to China and this time I will climb that damn wall.

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I’m going to build my exit strategy—not the final exit, just the one into retirement (although no doubt I’ll think about the other one too from time to time).  But at this point, I can’t see any of that happening until the other end of this decade at the earliest. It’s not just the financial concern; it’s health and wellness, it’s not being bored.

And dammit, I’m going to write a book—at least one.  Last year, after my separation (actually I guess it’s almost been two years now—my, how time flies when you let it!), I started to write.  And I started to get ideas. Now I just have to figure out how to put them down on paper. That’s next.

I want to start to volunteer.  Not sure where, not sure what, not sure with whom, but I’m sure there’s something I can do that will be useful.

Finally, I’m going to celebrate my friendships every chance I get and never take them for granted.

I was in a store the other day buying a shirt and the girl behind the counter asked me if I was eligible for the senior’s discount (very diplomatic of her I would say). Taking only a fraction of a second more than I normally would, I first thought hey–really?!.  But what came out of my mouth was more of a  “what-the-hell-yes”.

Cause what the hell, and why not?

So, I guess this is it.  Here I go–wish me luck!

6 thoughts on “On the cusp….

  1. Happy Birthday Betty, and even more so, happy adventures! Your plans are inspiring, and your memories are simply delightful. Looking forward to enjoying more stories in person one day soon. (I still have to rebook our Betty Lou’s evening!!).

  2. Susan Mide Kiss

    I love this post! And I love thinking of your life during all the various stages and ages.
    I was contemplating the aging process a couple weeks ago (on my birthday) and realized I don’t worry about the number – just whether I have been happy over the year and whether I have accomplished key milestones during the decade.
    Clearly you have so much to be proud of and to celebrate Betty! Think of all you have experienced in life…in just the last two years alone! And you have created a space to share your rich memories with us. Thank you.
    Tomorrow I celebrate YOU…and I wish you a safe and rejuvenating journey.

  3. Judith

    HaPpY BiRtHdAy my dearest friend. We’re in this journey together that started for us in third grade. I hope we will experience some of what is on your list together. I’m taking the ‘get healthy’ commitment with you, but you know I won’t be climbing that wall with you, but you will do it! Oh, and that book you mention…you know the one I want you to finish, even if it’s just for my eyes. Sending love to you on your birthday and always. Give the girls a big hug from me. Hopefully I will make it to one of the celebrations soon. I love you. 60 looks great on you. XO

    1. Just Bet

      Thank you so much, dear Judith! Hope this didn’t sound too down–it’s more a sense that there is a finite amount of time we all have, and we need to make the most of all of it, Need to get my priorities in order–less iPad and FB and more reading and writing!

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