As I get older I expect less from my birthdays. As a child I was doted on and showered with presents, all of which I loved. (I think kids love presents more because they can't buy anything for themselves, so any material things seem wonderful.) Now that I'm older and more averse to stuff, particularly not the very specific stuff I want — in a 1200 square foot house there's no room for things that are lovely but not quite right — getting stuff is not as thrilling as it was.
But I still like that feeling of being special and adored, and fortunately my family is good at providing that. Yesterday was my thirty-seventh birthday, and we all took the day off to enjoy it.
After breakfast the girls and I walked to the grocery store for a newspaper and a bouquet of flowers. (I don't know why I don't buy myself flowers more often — they were only $10.) Then I took my paper and went off for a pedicure in preparation for Kat's wedding, while Blake and the girls baked me a cake.
Cake baked and nails painted, we fancied ourselves up for an early afternoon tea. Delphine is still good at putting together outfits; she wore a black twill skirt with rickrack trim, and a tropical print top with ruched bodice and puffed sleeves. She topped-and-bottomed it with silver ballerina flats and her new black trilby with sparkly trim.
The rest of us looked pretty good too.
Tea was at the Windsor Arms. (We've tried the teas at the King Edward and the Royal York.) Apparently if you want to get seats inside you have to call weeks in advance. I called last Friday, so we sat outside; if you know Blake, you know what a sacrifice that is. I had to make sure, when I called, that there would be shade and that they haven't been having trouble with wasps. They seated us at a fairly shady table; I took the sunniest spot, and the sun soon moved behind a tree. (We had one black-and-yellow visitor, but we all remained studiously calm and he soon moved on.)
Tea was delicious. We started with a tiny goat cheese quiche, then pillowy white scones with clotted cream and jam. The middle plate was a selection of tiny sandwiches, rolled sushi-style: smoked salmon, chicken, and cream cheese with sundried tomato. Finally, four miniature desserts, and just when we thought we couldn't stuff in another bite, the waiter brought round little pots of strawberries and cream.
If I could offer advice on not overstuffing oneself, I would say eat only one scone, or maybe even half a scone — they're huge and filling, and also very easy to take home. I was too full to really enjoy the desserts. (Or I suppose you could eat the desserts first.)
The girls had mango and apple tea, iced; I had darjeeling and Blake had oolong. All delicious.
After tea we walked up to Bloor and window-shopped in Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma. I thought about getting some new tea towels at Williams-Sonoma, but I can't spend $38 on a pair of tea towels. I also had a good laugh at their "found" pottery table; crap from garage sales comically marked up. There was a four-ounce dish with some old brand name on it for $78, and a nondescript brown half-glazed pot for $237.
Then we went to the Body Shop and I took advantage of the birthday goodwill to get some new makeup: powder since I have gone all greasy lately (the weather? some kind of hormonal change?) and bronzing powder to fill in the gaps in my tan for Kat's wedding. (Their #01 bronzing powder is uncannily identical to my tanned colour.) I also got some lip glosses, because you can't have too many lip glosses.
Then Delphine had a little meltdown because it's not fair that I get to get all this stuff I want and she can't get anything because she doesn't have any money because we haven't given her allowance for ages. She's right about the last part — all of us, kids included, are very lackadaisical about their weekly allowance, and we probably owe them about $20 each at this point. So I gave her a tenner and promised that we'd come up with a system to make sure they get paid every week from now on.
After we had had a little rest in the coolth of the Manulife Centre we walked up to the Reference Library, which the kids haven't been into before and I haven't been into since they built the new entrance. We went all the way to the top and admired the view, then walked down the stairs. Delphine and I planned to come back when she's older: she will study and I will work.
Then home, where I spent some time on the couch while Blake cleaned the kitchen (oh bliss). At 7:00 we finally decided to get my traditional birthday KFC, although Blake and I weren't really hungry. (In retrospect, high tea and KFC in the same day was excessive.) After the dirty chicken we had a thin slice of birthday cake each and then all went to bed.
I don't have any profound thoughts on being thirty-seven, except that I don't have that usual sense of panic about how I'm getting old and I haven't done anything interesting with my life, I'm a failure aaaaah. It's nice. I like my job, I like my kids, I like my husband and the rest of my family, and my friends. I don't really like my house much, but I don't hate it and it's certainly more and better house than I have any right to expect, considering the global average. So I'm grateful for that, when I remember to be.
Thirty-seven seems kind of old; I've joked about being old on past birthdays, but this year I'm not really joking. (I will look back and laugh when I turn fifty-seven or seventy-seven, inshallah.) Thirty-seven is not an age for moping about your life, for complaining that things aren't working out or that the world is unfair; it's an age for getting on with it, for figuring things out and doing them. It's a grown-up age.