… I sat at a table laden with treats, surrounded by a group of friends who cheered me over the crest into my seventh decade. For the occasion, I’d bought a new coat which I’ve only worn about three times since then.
…While I recognized that it wasn’t trivial, I nevertheless didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of those friendships, nor did I have awareness of that would grow in the coming year. What a touchstone it would be for me throughout 2020, that simple mad hatter tea party.
…I had little understanding that the theatre is not fashioned from the architecture, but from the community of collaborators and ideas that can be generated in any space, virtual or physical.
…I didn’t know I had the physical stamina to walk 3.5 miles a day five days a week.
…I didn’t know that I could do without dairy or meat and feel so much healthier than I had before.
…I had no idea that I could train my brain to avoid habitually negative or judgmental thoughts and could effectively rewire my neural pathways to find positivity as a path through each of life’s events. Is it good? Is it bad? Up to me.
…I didn’t know I missed having one of my siblings close enough to spend an hour each day, or multiple times a week walking and talking.
…I had no idea that a cotton mask and vigorous hand washing would preserve my life.
……I realized that my life long fascination with stationery could be parlayed into a mission of writing and receiving pandemic “pan pal” letters, most regularly with my friend, Chewy. Today, in celebration of my birthday, she sent me cupcakes via Door Dash, from her favorite bakery. When I received a call from the guard at the desk, I went down to pick them up, discovering that it had been his birthday the day before, so we cracked them open right there so he could choose one.
A year ago…
…I flew to New York to celebrate my birthday with Bob at his house, with never a thought that I couldn’t do the same any time I chose to do so.
A year ago…
…there was a distinct dark border around my heart which through diligent and daily platonic use has faded from black to gray.
And yet, Lady Grief lingers close by sometimes. Last night, I pulled my mail out of the mailbox, and as I rose in the elevator to my apartment, I casually opened the residual envelop from SAG-AFTRA. Usually residuals are in the neighborhood of $10.00 or sometimes, even less than $1.00. Anyway, I looked down at the residuals for Patch Adams, in which Jimmie had played a one-armed painter helping Robin Williams to start his clinic. As the doors to the elevator opened, and I gazed down at the number, I burst into tears. $363.00, on the eve of my birthday. I imagined his kind eyes crinkling and heard his gravely but velvet voice. “Treat yourself.”
This morning I went to my closet to look for a “frock” to wear to celebrate my birthday, though I had no plans to leave the apartment today. I reached for a silk, floral, asymmetrical sheath that my husband had bought for me about 10 years ago. Tried it on, it’s brevity not inspiring the carefree elegance I aspired to today; took it off, then reached for a garnet colored knit dress that didn’t even look familiar. It had beautiful details around the cuffs and hem, the knit joining a gossamer under layer. The back of the dress is six inches or so longer than the front (intentionally), and the knit’s v-neck layers over a sheer scooped neckline. I had little to no memory of the dress, but suddenly I recognized it as one of the thoughtful gifts Jimmie had given me in the last homebound years of our life together when I’d had no occasion to wear it. I put it on, feeling the delicate brush of the sheer fabric on my bare legs, gratitude and a sensual awakening, fabric on skin. All day, from my weekly call with Bob and Susan, and hours later, as I sat in Zoom auditions, I felt like a queen.
So, yes, it’s been a year. And 2021 is shaping up to be a doozy as well. But I feel remarkably lucky to have survived to celebrate another birthday. Surrounded by friends and draped in carnelian knit. I’m a lucky lucky girl.