It was my birthday last weekend. I know, I have made way too much of this annual event. I know. I have written about my birthday angst, my birthday plans and my birthday celebration. Overkill, perhaps.
But, see, this birthday is really, really making me think and reevaluate. This is the first “true” empty nest birthday, because last year I was unwilling to admit that the kids were grown and gone. This is my first “post mommy” birthday. What am I to make of this milestone?
On Saturday morning, I went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for my birthday bash. I bought sockeye salmon, and huge, succulent sea scallops. I bought brie and puff pastry, prosecco and imported olives. I bought smoked mussels and sweet rye bread.
And….I bought a little glass jar of black caviar. Not the upscale, rare, to-die-for caviar. Just the grocery store version. I learned to love this stuff back in about 1978, when I was a Russian major looking for affordable luxuries. Back then, those shiny black beads of salty flavor represented a world of sophistication that I could only imagine. They were served at gatherings where professors of Russian literature reminisced about life in Leningrad while sipping icy vodka. Those tiny pearls were heaped on black bread with sour cream at celebrations of Slavic heritage, back when I sang in a Russian choir. I ate this caviar on Orthodox Easters and at Russian dinners, surrounded by immigrants from the Soviet Union. The taste of caviar was a huge part of my most formative years.
That familiar caviar taste brings me back to a time in my life when the world seemed to be dancing just beyond my outstretched fingers. When I thought that I would one day study language in Moscow. When I believed that poetry and music and philosophy were the only real topics of conversation that were fit for evening gatherings. I ate it when I turned 21, and when I turned 35. And I ate it last Saturday, with my grown children around me, as I turned 56.
And as I sit here tonight, wondering what it means to be middle aged, I have come to a simple yet momentous decision.
Tomorrow I will be taking my class on a Field Trip to Boston. Along with two other fifth grade classes, we will attempt to relive the famous town meeting of 1773, in which the citizens of Boston met to decide what to do about all that British tea sitting in the harbor. I will organize chaperones, double check medications, keep the bus ride somewhat calm, meet with the Park Ranger and museum docent, facilitate the meeting, keep the kids together, guide them through the busy city streets, chaperone lunch, march everyone back to the bus and oversee the ride back to school. Phew.
So in honor of my past, and with a nod to affordable luxury, I will start my day tomorrow with a cup of good strong coffee and a large dollop of black caviar on my toast.
Sometimes you just have to get a little wild.