Wednesday, 30 October 2013

My Thirtieth Birthday

A scarce two months and a day after Walter’s birthday comes mine, and this year it was a big event as I was turning thirty. Puzzling over what to do with my birthday had been on my mind for months – with a new baby and David just completing his work I wasn’t sure if a big party was the way to go. So I thought about it, and thought about my introvert personality, and decided to skip the party and aim for a family day. It meant a lot less stress and something different from the usual.

By a stroke of divine grace both children slept in until after seven on the morning of my birthday. And then they gave me a fuss-free morning. David made breakfast, Walter went for his nap, and Emily cuddled on me while I stayed in bed reading The Return of the King and feeling spoiled.

I’d hoped to go on an autumn picnic, but the day was gray and the parks were insufficiently dry. So we spent a picnic lunch indoors. As I was assembling our lunch, Walter came barreling down the hall with a gift for me – a box of truffles from the local choclatier. Emily, meanwhile, was holding a giant card and a limited edition Loreena McKennitt cd for me. The cd has all of my favourite songs on it and is a real treat (I’m a big fan).

After lunch (moroccan humous, cheese baguette, french brie, tomatoes, victoria sponge cake, crisps, and cherry cola) we went for a walk. Over the past few weeks, David had been scouting out a fenland nature walk for us to take on my birthday. He wanted to ensure that we could get the buggy down the trails and that the route was one that could get us home easily at the end, in case the kids were freaking out or I was really tired. Knowing that I was on a custom-planned walk was one of the best gifts of the day. The weather cooperated beautifully, the kids were well behaved, and we prowled in the fens for nearly two hours.

My boys

standing on a bridge over the Ouse

enjoying the fresh air
The area between the River Ouse and town is, to the naked eye, mere pastureland with cows, horses, and the railroad. In actual fact there are hidden lakes, where water has flooded the deep clay pits. There are sail boats, fishermen, and all manner of flora & fauna. Brambles overhang the path, and at this time of year they are full of delicious berries. It was so wonderful to be out in the country and gave me a very memorable birthday treat.

boats moored in the clay pits

Ely Cathedral across the Water (sort of what the medieval view was like)

pasture on the way home
bramble berries! I love feeding these to Walter on our walks
Because we don’t eat meat on Friday, and because I’m very fond of our normal Friday routine, I opted to postpone my birthday dinner until Sunday and we went ahead with our regular pizza night. As it was my birthday, David obliged me in my movie choice and we watched the 1985 Anne of Green Gables, which is one of the first movies I remember seeing.

Fast forward to Sunday – David spent the afternoon cooking my birthday dinner (made to order, no less!). We had roast beef, roast potatoes, beans & carrots, yorkshire pudding (which I made, because we long ago agreed that every couple needs some secrets and my yorkshire recipe should be one of those), and my favourite chocolate cake (with many comments on the butter & sugar content, because some people don’t understand that when it’s birthday cake the sugar & butter NO LONGER COUNT). It was a lovely meal and such a treat to have it all cooked for me.

My twenties were jam-packed with adventures. I got my BA & MA, lived in seven different cities and three different countries, found a career that really suits me, married my soulmate, had two children, and got to participate in a style of life that my wildest dreams had only touched on (balls, formals, garden parties, punting, etc). My resume has grown with the various jobs I’ve taken all over the world, and my personality has grown with those different experiences. It’s not been without excruciatingly hard parts: verbally abusive work environments that made me sick with stress, the pain of realising that the Academic Dream wasn’t for me, and the dark uncertainty of the last year of David’s PhD. But the memory of the hard parts fades, and the beauty of the life that I am creating with my husband and our children remains.

I hope that my thirties bring us to a place where we can be a little more settled. Moving every few years is expensive and tiresome, even if it is exciting to discover new cities and countries. I’d like the opportunity to pay down our debts, to really get involved in a community without knowing that it was only for a short period of time, and to focus on building our home. These are, I guess, my material goals.

I hope that I’ll be able to spend the next decade indulging my creativity a bit more. I want to learn to play the harp, and I’d like to get into better physical shape through some sort of dance class. I’d like to have a couple, or a few, more babies, and if there is any time remaining I wouldn’t mind learning a new craft, like mosaic making. And, if circumstances come together in the right way, I would like to join a choir again. These are my goals for continuing to develop into the person I want to be.

I hope to spend the next decade learning how to raise a Catholic family. I want to see my children learn from my example, and I want to see my own faith deepen and grow as I try to express it to them. I want to increase my prayer life into something meaningful and important. I want to increase the happiness and joy of those around me. I want to take part regularly in Adoration, sitting face to face with Christ and learning to commune with Him that way. These are my goals for developing into the holy person God wants me to be.

I’m looking forward to it.

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