Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thoughts on a Birthday

ANOTHER BIRTHDAY, ANOTHER YEAR *

“If it was only the other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture that were to grow old! For this--for this--I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give!" - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 


A summer day long, long ago, I drank from the fabled Fountain of Youth. I vaguely remember that afternoon, driving up to St. Augustine in the old green station wagon with dad, Sue, Michael and Andrew, climbing up and wandering around the ramparts, posing in front of the statue of the old Seminole, buying plastic swords in the gift shop, dad smiling for the camera with his head in the stocks and, yes indeed, patiently waiting in line to visit Ponce de Leon’s legendary Fountain. And of course I, basking in the aura, the mesmerizing glow of the golden rock, drank that tiny paper cup full of this magical elixir! I have always been a superstitious thing, even at that tender age, and clung on to that elusive promise of eternal youth. I knew even then the immeasurable value of youth and was ready to sell my soul, sip of the cup. Yet little did I realize, mere slip of an 8-year old that I was, how this one sip would change my life! But drink I did!



The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, 
and to lie about your age. 
- Lucille Ball 

“She’s not getting older, she’s getting better!” Or so the old saying goes, so the old ads wanted desperately to convince us. For years I played with fire, avoiding the question, allowing lies to slip out from between my lips. Changing the subject when the subject was broached, feigning ignorance, pretending that I just hadn’t heard. Was I afraid that merely uttering the number, any number, would age me in and of itself, that my hair would turn gray, my face shrivel, my shoulders hunch, my youth wither and fade? Oh, we can take the high road: color our hair, botox the face, plump up the lips, redo the bust, the whole nine yards, and run away from who or what we are, live behind the veil of illusion, pretend to be what we are not, but we cannot run away from who we are forever. Like the young man staring at the horrible portrait, it catches up one day.

My life has been a series of adventures, ups and downs, zigs and zags and I am sure that it has all left a mark, inside and out. I haven’t achieved half of what many people have achieved at this age and at times I think my life has been downright boring and uneventful, yet, as my brother reminded me to do every so often, I try to look at all I have done, all I have accomplished, the places I have seen, the people I have met and the friends that I have made. Everyone, I believe, lives their own singular adventure, and mine is as worthy as the next. In just the past handful of years, I have successfully turned what started out as a mere blogging adventure into a professional writing career. I teach writing at my own workshops and have spoken at conferences and events around the world. I have a damn fine marriage and home life, and even through tough times and tragedy, laughter still rings through our home.

Youth is a wonderful thing. 
What a crime to waste it on children. 
- George Bernard Shaw 


As we get older we realize that there is most definitely something to be said for aging, adding up the years, getting, yes, older; lines may mark our face, we may have to work that much harder to keep the body looking good, we may have to swallow our pride and accept the fact that strangers no longer call us “Mademoiselle” but now say “Madame”. My sons, just barely out of their teens, may scoff at me and accuse me of no longer being in the loop, of not understanding how things work today, but I take great comfort in the fact that many of their worries are long behind me. I am old enough to understand that life has its ups and its downs: successes to be proud of even while often being overcome by self-doubt; wildly happy carefree days tempered by bouts of depression; the knowledge and freedom to make any decision, any life change I choose while tip-toeing over the abyss of possible disaster; the thrill of watching one’s own children grow into smart, handsome, healthy, confident young adults who have each found their passion, their road in life, enjoying their company as adults while struggling with the occasional rip-roaring argument. At this ripe old age, we are who we want to be, we know how to get up every morning and face the world, sure of what we have become over the long years.

Time is fleeting, life is ephemeral, youth is a game. As Dorian Gray stayed young, so his portrait aged, the image withered, the eyes grew sunken and evil, jealousy and hatred painted lines across the face. Youth, lovely youth stared back out at him from his mirror, yet inside he aged, the age of struggle, spite, meanness and fear. His youth was mere shadow, beauty seen between squinted eyes. Beauty, as they say, is in the eyes of the beholder and I am satisfied with the beauty inside, the youth that makes me laugh and cry when I feel the urge, the youth inside that allows me to be crazy with friends, silly with husband, not afraid to kiss in public or laugh out loud.

Growing older means being unafraid to bare my soul to you who read what I write, feeling the bond of old friends, and just doing what I love best: writing. And baking. Baking, like storytelling, is what gives me pleasure while bringing pleasure to others. Growing older means being able to bake what I want, when I want it, how I like it. And eating without guilt. I am actually beginning to like being grown up!

 Old age ain’t no place for sissies. 
- Bette Davis 


Some favorite birthday posts, some favorite birthday cakes:





Chocolate Espresso Layer Cake with Chocolate Mocha Mascarpone Buttercream











Espresso Chocolate Cake with Mocha Mascarpone Frosting













Don't miss out on the chance to join photographer Ilva Beretta and I at our first Plated Stories Workshop in Tuscany, Italy. We will be joining Tuscan Muse for an extraordinary 10-day adventure learning, exploring, discovering, traveling and eating. Be a part of this truly inspiring group of talented, passionate students! Check it out here....











* Parts of this blog post first appeared on January 29, 2010 when I had just turned 50, when I had hit the half-century mark. I decided on this momentous occasion to take the same piece and rewrite it.

21 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Happy Birthday! May all your dreams come true and please, don't change.

Like wine, you age gracefully. I hope I'll be as beautiful as you when I reach your age...

Cheers,

Rosa

P.S. My life is a lot more boring than yours, believe me (I have achieved and done nothing much until now LOL)!!! ;-)

domenicacooks said...

Happy Birthday, my dear friend. I did not know the younger you, but I love who you are right now. Oh, and please don't even dream about doing any of that plastic surgery stuff. You are beautiful just the way you are. xo

Rambling Tart said...

I love growing older too, Jamie. :-) It is a lovely, lovely thing to feel comfy in your own skin, to do what you love, and to look back with genuine pride and affection at what you HAVE done and experienced. Wishing you a fantastic birthday and a beautiful year with your loves. XO

La Torontoise said...

Bon anniversaire,Jamie!
May the years ahead be full of all those things that matter most to you!
Love reading your blog.

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

I'm not all that fond of growing older when bits creak and fall off but it's much better than the alternative.

I'm glad we're both happy in the skin we're in.

Sam Taylor said...

Happy Birthday Jamie. I love a birthday, every single one. I like to pat myself on the back and say good on you old girl, another one under the belt. I have never felt more happy to NOT be twenty than when I turned 40. I think ageing is a delight and I think that a woman who passes 40 and remains silly and funny and calm, effortlessly confident and wise is possibly the most beautiful thing in the the world to behold.

bellini said...

Happy birthday once again Jamie. This piece has me coming to terms with aging. If you have to grow older you may as well enjoy it!!! I like my friends idea of celebrating my birthday once a month on the 15th.

Barbara said...

Happy birthday, Jamie, and here's to many more! The best are yet to come!
I love your birthday post and the aptly chosen quotes. Whenever I feel like age matters I think of Dorian Grey and his waste, it makes me feel great at once.

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

Very many happy returns to you, Jamie. I love your look on life and so happy you're doing what you love best and sharing it with us. Cheers to you!

Nancie McDermott said...

What a wonderful post, Jamie, both the photographs which delight and the words which move me and send me off into reflection. Hope your birthday goes on and on --- one day? Give me a break! One week, minimum! We will raise a glass to your next year and your long happy healthy prosperous fascinating and beautiful life when we meet in Chicago, soon. All the best.

kellypea said...

I can relate to so much of what you write -- "wildly happy carefree days tempered by bouts of depression" is very much how I feel. Thankfully, more one than the other. I appreciate anyone willing to bare her soul so eloquently. Here's to getting older!

Rosemary Nardone said...

Hope you had a great birthday! I feel this time of my life is the best, would not want to go backwards for anything. Fabulous post!!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Look at you Jamie! So adorable and I can really see the present day Jamie in the pics. I hope you have a gorgeous birthday!!! :D

Sam Hoffer @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I hope you had a wonderful birthday Jamie. I see birthdays as blessings. Wishing you a belated bon anniversarie and many more to come.
Sam

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

I love that with age comes the freedom to be more genuinely ourselves. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday!

Karen Kerr said...

Happy birthday Jamie. Sweet and lovely post. I particularly love the Girl Scout photo. =) Your writing, as always, is beautiful. So much I could say about this topic....

Judit + Corina @WineDineDaily said...

Hope you had a wonderful Birthday! Wishing you a happy year filled with laughter and delicious food!
Cheers,
J+C

Nuts about food said...

Happy belated birthday Jamie! I think if I were a "young" adult I would like to grow up to be like you, but alas I am no longer that young myself...

Jamie said...

@nuts about food : ha ha ha ha that made me laugh. I am still older than you are, so you can still grow up to be me although I am not quite sure why anyone would want to! Oh.... there are indeed a lot of laughs! Thanks, dear!

Fishing Rod Holders said...

Excellent post. Happy birthday,dear friend. May god bless you. I hope,you will buildup your life day by day. Thanks for your nice post.

Meeta K said...

I find that this thing called getting older is not all glory as I feel the burden of responsibility more and more. Sometimes I wonder what happened and when can I just forget the rules and be carefree again. Does that make sense? If there was anyone ... it is you my friend who has found the secret of ageing gracefully and with a lot of sass!

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