Posted by shannonclark on June 11, 2002
June is the month of celebrations in my family – my sister’s birthday, then my birthday, then my parent’s aniversary all seperated by only four days between each celebration.
This year will be a quiet year for celebrating – my sister is in NYC, my parents will be on the west coast for both birthdays, and then my parent’s aniversary falls on the same day as a major charity benefit that my mom is organizing (and at which I will be bartending – rather amusing, that.)
Like most things in my family, food is a prominant aspect to our lives and our celebrations. The tradition, started back when we were very young, is that the birthday person chooses the restaurant (or the menu) for dinner that night. Rarely anything in excess, but always someplace special and good. When we were much younger I would often choose The Ground Round – a small, local competitor to “Chuckey Cheeses”, that is to say an America place with barbeque ribs (which is what I always ordered) and lots of games for us kids to play.
However, I was too tall to ever play in what was clearly the coolest of the game – the room full of plastic balls, this was invented just a few years after I had grown too tall to be allowed inside.
It is the small things that you remember.
Now, the tradition has usually be to pick great restaurants here in town, usually not insane places such as Charlie Trotters, but amazing places such as Yoshi’s Cafe, Printer’s Row, or the like.
This year, I have no plans, my birthday may pass with no celebration and no one to share it with.
One year I was in Israel for my birthday, it was the first week of a seven week long archealogical dig that I was on, I was in a new country surrounded by 100 people I did not know. All alone that year it was a tough birthday. There was one other historian on that trip, about five archaelogical students, and about 90 divinity school students with whom I shared nothing.
They were mostly Evangelical Christians.
I am an atheist who does not believe in God. If pressed I aknowledge my Jewish heritage and am more Jewish than I am Catholic (which is how I was raised, nuns and all).
Indeed, one roommate of mine there (we slept four to a room) had the annoying conversational habit of saying “You know. The bible says…”
Every other sentance.
Grating even to some of the others who were fellow travelers of his.
To be fair, many of them were not like that, and kept their preaching to a minimum, indeed there were many who were intelligent and fun to talk to, though only in short spurts. I spent my weekends after the first weekend, traveling Israel on my own, staying at youth hostels, and exploring the history of the place. The weekends were great, the dig was exhausting and exhillerating.
But that first week, my birthday celebrated alone with strangers was not so great.
A few years ago I was once again travelling on my birthday, this time to England. However, this time rather than celebrating my birthday with strangers, I was lucky to celebrate it with family and friends! My grandfather, his third wife, and one of her children and his family were staying in London at the same time, in a rented flat. I got to visit with them and then go out for dinner at a great italian restaurant. My grandfather gave me a present that I will always treasure, a watch. It is an electric watch (not electronic, it is rather unusual) which is when properlly tuned extremely accurate. With it, he timed the launches of over twenty rocket launches that he worked on.
Yes, my grandfather could be described as a rocket scientist. Well Aeronautical Engineer to be more precise. He designed jets for twenty years, was an early member of Rand Corporation, and then spent twenty years working for Aerospace Corporation designing top secret satalites and other items for the government. How cool is that.
In fact on the walls of one of those three letter agencies there is a plaque honoring my grandfather as a pioneer of space. There are still many of the items he built that he can not talk to us about today.
So his watch that he gave to me was the witness to a slice of our history, a slice that few people were able to participate in.
This year I do not know what I will do for my birthday. I am always contemplative about this time of year, I am getting older, no longer the youth that I was, that I still think of myself as being. Rather than being the youngest in every group, as I have been since the 2nd grade (well since the 3rd grade when I skipped into it in the middle of the year after moving). I am now approaching being the old one in some circumstances.
In some respects I am successful.
But in many more I am left wondering, I am not who I always thought I would be.
For one, I am without a degree (by the age of 25 my “plan” had been to have a PhD like my father’s).
For another, I am single and not married – though I never thought about this much, somehow I always figured by this point in my life I would be married, possibly even a father. I am now much older than my mom was when she got married, and approaching older than she was when I was born.
But more on that another day. For now, errands to run and a business to strive to maintain.