The Audacious Magpie
A Novel in Real-Time
Chapter 3: Birthday Wishes
March 8, 2014
I woke from a late slumber on Saturday morning to find an email from Lenny:
Heya Gus! I'm back in town and just in time for a Big Ample gift this week! It's all centered around birthdays. March is a big month of important birthdays in my life -- my brother, my dad and me too!
What better way to celebrate than giving a gift to anyone whose birthday it might be? This is what I strung up in a station in TriBeCa. Basically, they're little 'birthday cards' for whoever cares for one.
I don't think I mentioned it before, but it was actually my 30th birthday on the 4th. Gran and Gramps were the perfect companions to ring in such a milestone. Gramps and I took a long walk into town for supplies so Gran could make her famous burnt sugar cake. It was so good to be up and about with him after he was in bed for the first few days of my visit.
On the farm the day came and went like any other day, sort of like the beauty of celebrating New Year's Eve there. The cows keep munching and the chickens keep roosting. There's no real marker of the passage of time. Life just continues on in its lovely, simple rhythm.
On the flight back here, though, it really hit me. The big Three-O. When we are kids, I think we imagine that we'll never be 30! It is the age of our parents and that idea freezes until we hit our 20's and only then do we realize that 30 is the inevitable next step. At least, that's how it was for me.
Now I'm here and suddenly feel an intense sense of urgency! For me there's something about hitting 30 that takes away any former feeling that life will go on forever. This may sound morbid, but it has actually lit a lovely fire under me. I want to try everything, Gus, and time's a wastin'!
There on the plane I composed a list of 101 goals to get started, inspired by the list you spoke of when we first met. Finishing The Big Ample project is top of the list! With 40 cards today, 100 feathers and 14 Valentines. I'm well on the way!
Hope all's well with you. I would love to catch up soon.
PS - Speaking of your goals, how is your poem-a-day goal coming along? How do I get on the list to receive them?
Amazing. Lenny had so clearly articulated what I'd felt when passing the 30-year mark a few years ago. Both Izzy and I had discussed at length that same sense of urgency. It was as though rounding the corner past 29 gave us time whiplash. It had all passed so fast.
Knowing my love of prose, Izzy had written me a poem for my 30th. I shared it with Lenny:
Welcome back! We must celebrate your big day. Dinner tonight, perhaps?
Meanwhile, here is a poem to ring in this shiny new decade (written by Isabelle):
What is this life
But a few circles around the sun?
If we are to be cowards,
In what time is such luxury afforded?
To waste moments in
'They told me so.'
'I was too scared.'
'It was too much.'
When is there time in the show
For such excuses to take center stage?
It is a trivial spectacle
For which I'll not buy a ticket.
My money will be placed
On glorious fanfare
Of hearts full in
And souls full on
Only to these will I give a standing ovation,
To performances of courage that thrive to aspire
In these few circles around the sun.
Glad to hear you're working on your own goal list! You'll have to tell me about it. As for the poem-a-day project, I've decided to wait until April for National Poetry Month. I'll put you on the list for sure.
Let me know if you're free tonight,
As usual, Lenny responded promptly.
Dinner sounds lovely. On the early side perhaps? Jet lag's still pulling its pranks around 10pm. Thank you for the invitation.
What's more -- thank you for the poem (and a big thanks to Izzy)! It just about sums it up, doesn't it? You said you both do urban planning work? I would have pegged you both as philosophy or English majors. But, I suppose everyone needs a hobby, huh?
A ce soir,
I introduced Lenny to Alta, my favorite New York restaurant, hands down. Even with 4 floors of seating, there is still always a wait. Try a ball of their fried goat cheese with lavender honey and you'll know why.
We sat in the small room on the top floor. It was quiet enough for us to catch up properly. Izzy would join later, but for now I wanted to hear about Lenny's trip.
"So, how was the gingerbread house?" I asked. Sometimes Izzy's punning rubbed off on me.
"No gingerbread this time around," Lenny smiled. "At the slightest whisper of spring, its all berries and honey in Gran's kitchen. You wouldn't believe her shortcake."
"Mmmm." I was glad we were at dinner and about to eat. "Any more children's tales expounding the rewards of hard work?" I queried.
"You know, Gran and I read less together this time around. With Gramps unwell, she went to bed early in order to always be with him.
"Those two," Lenny shook her head with fondness, "I'd pass their door in the evening and hear them giggling like teenage girls at a slumber party. Gran has a whole series of stories from her youth to make Gramps laugh.
"His favorite is one about Gran's French teacher at boarding school in the UK. She was a passionate, lively person with very thick Belgian accent.
"One day, she was particularly animated in explaining how the baccalauréat is a hugely important test for all French students graduating high school. In emphasizing what a big deal the test is, the teacher's eyes grew wide and she became very serious. Gran impersonated her accent: So, you can understand why so many of ze students are sh*tting during ze test! Everyone is sh*tting because of ze pressure!
"Gran recalled looking around at her fellow students in disbelief that the teacher would slip such profanity into the lesson. They looked at the teacher wide-eyed and she returned their gaze, thinking her students didn't believe the cheating to be a real issue. She emphasized again, Yes! The sh*tting is really a problem!"
I laughed. Lenny did a great impersonation. I could only imagine her grandma telling the story and her grandpa finding such humor in it. I loved them even without knowing them.
Suddenly Izzy and her big furry Russian hat appeared in the doorframe.
"Yodeleheehoo!" she greeted us. "I feel like I just climbed into the Alps coming all the way up here!
"Welcome back, Ms. Kravitz," she greeted Lenny. "Sweden's got to be balmy these days compared to our never-ending winter, huh? I hope the shock of coming back wasn't too much for you."
Lenny smiled. "At least today was beautiful, right?"
"True, but we're meant to dip back to freezing this week," I added grumpily.
"Well, I guess we just have to bank on centuries of experience that summer will come again," countered Lenny kindly. She paused for a moment and grinned. "That's perfect," she said half to herself.
"What is?" Izzy prodded.
"That will be the basis of the next gift," Lenny explained. "A reminder of one of life's most beautiful inevitabilities -- a reminder that spring always comes again."