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When Writers Have Birthdays

It’s my birthday week so I thought I’d write a post by way of celebration. It’s not a big birthday. No parties, please. I’m not a party person; I like small gatherings. So I didn’t enjoy my birthday party two years ago overmuch. (Is that a word?) Okay, guess the number because I won’t tell. My daughter and husband planned it, I drew up the guest list, but even so, I objected. They refused to hear objections and in the end I surrendered to their loving efforts. There were many highlights: friends and family and a scrumptious M&M cake. I allowed myself to indulge.

It took place in a favorite restaurant. There were balloons, good food, cheerful buzzy conversation, a cash bar. We had the whole back room. Nice. But as soon as I walked in the door—I was already writing about it in my head. “It was as if everything I saw had already been written,” wrote Gabriel Garcia Marquez who was both a journalist and a novelist. Always observing. Always narrating a story.

In other words, even when we are not physically writing, writers are writing. Life’s happenings spin differently and take on odd configurations.

My mother died—healthy and full of ideas—at the age of 99. To the end, she knew what was happening and talked about it. She was a physician so could organize her medical care—how much morphine to drip into her veins, for example, so that her last breath would postpone until one of her grandchildren arrived from Wisconsin. Maybe I get my slightly detached appreciation of life from her. Did she enjoy her birthdays? Yes and no. Certainly the accumulating years were experienced as a gift. Most of her family--our family-- had been killed in a genocide; she was a survivor. And so every day was precious, not just her birthday. But she didn’t like the focus to be on her; she was shy. Maybe this explains my resistance to celebrating my birthday this week. Or maybe I’m watching it unfold into a story.
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