I woke up this morning, the bedroom dark, but not because it was early still: it was raining softly and low cloud was keeping the early morning light from insistently filtering through my curtains as usual for that time of the day. I lay there listening to the rain and the even breathing of my lover who was still fast asleep, in his favourite sleep position: on his stomach, his face turned to me and an arm half flung across my waist. I didn’t want to move, but eventually my need for a cup of tea had me slip out of bed to the kitchen. I brought my tea back to bed though, and propped up against pillows and cushions reinstated to the bed after being thrown off the bed the night before(some people neatly stack the unused pillows on an ottoman or chair: not me!), I opened my journal and sat writing for about half an hour after I had my tea, wondering if the scratching of my fountain pen on the paper would wake up my lover. It seemed very loud in the quiet of the morning as the rain had stopped. It did, for three seconds: enough for him to whisper “good morning” and go straight back to sleep.
I had woken up remembering that this is my birthday month: I turn 50 at the end of this month, and that means that I will have already lived for 50 years… half a century. So while my journal writing is reserved for non-food related musings, here I can write about thoughts that I have about my 50th birthday party, which also occupied my mind as I woke up.
I have invited everyone whom I want here: I had decided earlier that I was not going to invite exes, of which I have a few…even though I am on good terms with the father of my children and my second husband…I saw both at my dad’s funeral, even, somewhat bizarrely for the occasion, had a photograph taken there of them and my fiancée and I… but when I drew up the invitation list I suddenly realised that I didn’t want them here: no particular reason… or no clear rational reason… (I know that they may be reading these words, and I hope they understand..)
Some memories of my mother’s 50th birthday party came up for me: none of the complicated social issues like exes to deal with for her! Her and my father had been married for about 27 years at the time, her oldest daughter, me(bar the 5 minutes with which my twin sister is older) was pregnant with a second child, a heavy sixth month. I remember I wore black leggings and an oversized yellow with big black polka dots top which covered my bottom and my pregnant belly. My mother wore a new silky turquoise blouse, which was bought rather than home sewn, and a calf length black skirt with some pleated detail at the hem,and stockings, and high heeled peep-toed shoes. I think I only remember these details because I have photographs of her at the sink clearing up after her own party probably in stockinged feet and still in her party clothes. There are some pics of me too, scowling at my young husband who was taking photos, feeling uncomfortable with heartburn which I suffered from terribly at the time.
Her party was held at the house where I grew up, a lamb on a spit under a sprawling mulberry tree, a marquee put up against the cool early winter evening. My dad had started the lamb early, hand cranking the rotisserie at regular intervals: nothing like the mechanised contraptions of these days. I remember that he, every so often, sucked up a marinade mix my mother had made into a fat syringe with a thick needle, and proceeded to squirt it into the lamb with aplomb and obvious glee, while he sipped his brandy and coke, standing around the spit with some of the other men, drinking the same ubiquitous Afrikaner drink of the time(for men: the women were maybe having careful white wine spritzers). Needless to say, the meat was tender and tasty. I cannot remember what else was on the menu: probably a favourite potato dish my mom used to make: a bake with onion soup and butter and cream I think, probably a green salad..definitely not garlic bread: my father detested that… I simply can’t remember. But I do remember my grandmother’s face as she sat with her arms folded across her big breasts as her son toasted his 50 year old wife: it suddenly was clear to me that my beloved gran was envious of my mother and the love my dad had for her… no ex husband dynamics, but dynamics nevertheless. My own mother had neither her parents there: they had died years before. But her sisters and brother and in-laws were all there, and friends from work and colleagues of my father and of course, her children, only me and my sister married at the time.
I won’t have either of my parents at my 50th either, nor any other family really. See, I share a birthday with a non-identical twin, and I had months ago decided that I wanted my own party, even though I guess it is somewhat tradition and expected to have a joint big birthday party… I suggested when we spoke about it that we each have our own party for friends whom we share none of, and the next day have a big lunch for family… I don’t know yet what she has decided to do. We live such different lives in different places..
I am not completely sure yet whether I will have a very long table set beautifully, seating the 35 people I expect, with a side table from where each can help themselves to food and drinks, or several smaller, low tables and chairs to lounge in and food for fingers set out in platters..
I suppose my menu will decide that: if I go with a Middle Eastern theme, which I am considering, it will definitely be the latter… I plan to cater myself, even though it may be madness. I’ve been to several 50ths where the evening is catered and waiters carry continuous platters with exotic finger food to delight in… very sophisticated and smooth and sexy. I thought about doing that too: having outside caterers, but somehow it’s not quite my style, or maybe it’s my ego, wanting all the accolades for the food!
But I am going to have live music: my lover having agreed to play a song or two on his sax, and lots of lanterns in trees, and chandeliers with candles, and good sparkling wine, and white linen napkins…
And I will make a speech. And I will cry, missing my mother and my father. And I will stand there feeling blessed, with people I love and with whom I’ve shared significant moments in my life…