This morning, I woke up too early, in a dark and peaceful house. Once the haze of sleep began to lift, it dawned on me: Today is my 40th birthday.
More precisely, it’s my Hebrew birthday. My secular birthday doesn’t come until a week into May, and in our house, our kids like to celebrate both. Since this year my Hebrew birthday falls a few weeks before my secular one, I realize it’s like I have a birthday “zone,” an especially welcome transition period for easing into this new decade, one that seems to strike terror in on-the-cusp-of-middle-aged hearts around the world.
Truth be told, I hadn’t given much thought to my Hebrew birthday this year. Even though it’s a milestone birthday, I have been focused on my secular one which I plan to celebrate in Israel in a few weeks. I was thrilled to learn my sister-in-law was making her son’s bar mitzvah in Israel right around my 40th— what better way to celebrate than with a personal pilgrimage to Israel, my favorite place on earth? I will be on vacation with my husband and kids, visiting friends and family. I can celebrate with gourmet kosher food to feed my body and Holy Places to lift the spirit. And I think my husband has a little mini-getaway planned there (grandparents will be there to babysit!). I have a few more weeks to enjoy my 30s and then the partying can start, Israel style.
But then, like fog coming in on little cat feet, this Hebrew birthday crept up on me. The reason I even realized it was today is because I know my birthday is the day after Yom Ha’atzamut, Israel’s birthday, so when I awoke and thought of our Israel-related celebrations yesterday, it hit me. Forty. Today.
I grinned. Who cares that, at the risk of TMI, the reason I woke up before my alarm was a nudging from my already-aging bladder? My maternal grandmother, an Auschwitz survivor, died of leukemia at 32. In a week where we have the images from Boston so freshly etched, I will be grateful, damn it, to be 40.
After a few minutes, I nudged my husband ahead of his alarm clock. “Honey, it’s my Hebrew birthday.” He too smiled, murmured something appropriate, then snoozed.
Soon enough, the morning was teeming with its usual chaos: Waking up five children for school, one with a tummy ache, one a teenager, one who has to be ripped from sleep repeatedly until the wake up sticks. This one needed a note. That one needed a check and permission slip. The lunches still needed to be finished. A perfectly boring morning. Perfect.
I will revel in the beauty of boring. I will try not to look too closely at the little lines that hint at wrinkles to come. I will focus on the fact that though I am not at my ideal weight, I am fitter and healthier than I was at 30. I will marvel at my loving, dynamic, and strong marriage (not like the one I started and finished by my early 20s). And at the risk of super sappiness (hey, it’s my birthday, I can sap if I want to) I could spend the day crying tears of joy that these five amazing young people are my kids and I will even pat myself on the back for my role in their journeys.
I will enjoy this quieter, beautifully boring birthday, and when the onslaught of Facebook birthday wishes hits in May and the calls and celebrations start in the Holy Land in a few weeks’ time, I will be ready.