Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday, dear Janet,
Happy Birthday to me.

Happy 50th birthday. Wow and eek, all at the same time. I don't mind my age and especially don't mind owning up to it. Isn't it time that women stopped feeling ashamed of getting older? At the same time, how weird is it to realize that you've been alive 50 years? That's a lot of years. A whole half century. I was talking to my mom on the phone this morning and she told me that she had been married for more years than not married. But you got married at 19, I pointed out. No, I was 20, she replied, as if that one year made all the difference.

Getting older is all relative, I figure, just like good or bad health or good or bad luck. Warning: the next story involves the word breast, so skip this paragraph if you might be offended. A friend from high school called yesterday to wish me happy birthday. She not only remembered, but she conferenced in another friend who lives in another state. We graduated in 1975 and though we rarely see each other or have a chance to talk, we still immediately start gabbing as soon as we get together. She had breast cancer a few years ago and my other friend has had other health problems and I've had my bout of surprise health problems. And when she asked how I was feeling, I said good, but my body is not so beautiful anymore. Look, Janet, she laughed and said, we have four breasts among the 3 of us. Yup, I agreed, it's all relative.

My goal today was to not sit around and feel sorry for myself as well as to do something active so that I was sure that I had not gotten so old that I was no longer able to move. I scheduled a massage at a spa in the city. It was a gorgeous fall day: sunny, a bit crisp, blue skies. I took the train in and knit the whole way from my town to Union Station. (Picture above: I'm doing a mitten version of Fetching from Knitty, in the Elsebeth Lavold angora that I've recouped by ripping the Pentagon Bolero experiment from last year.) I came out onto Adams Street, walked from there to Michigan Avenue, then turned left and headed past the Art Institute and Millenium Park. I love Millenium Park. I love the fountain. I love the Bean. I love walking around Chicago and seeing the amazing buildings and the river and the lake and the people. Could I take every one's cell phone away so that they noticed their surroundings? My favorite person was the guy (talking on his cell phone) who went ballistic when a cab came around the corner while he was in the crosswalk. He cussed, he yelled, he chased the cab up the street. Whew, some serious anger there. It put my frustrations with stuff into perspective; in comparison, I am the Dalai Lama.

When I got tired of walking, I hailed a cab in true New York fashion: out on the curb, arm raised, walking backwards. Immediately a cab pulled over. I arrived at my appointment early, so I sat out on the sideporch of the W hotel on Lake Shore Drive and knit some more. I love this about the W: it's this very happening, in-your-face cool hotel, with, in complete contrast, actual wooden rocking chairs on the Lake Michigan side where you can sit, rock, and people and lake-watch.

The rest of the day was equally good. Great massage with no new-age music but instead, Ray Charles and Diana Krall and a bunch of really good torch singers, good lunch at the Pierrot Gourmet, where you can eat by yourself and with others at the same time by sitting at one of the long communal tables in the center of the restaurant. Fig and arugula salad with brie baked in phyllo, in a wine-reduction sauce. Then a little shopping and a little walking, and back to the station by cab to take the train home. I love Union Station and I love sitting on the upper level of the train, where you can have a seat all to yourself without any worries of someone edging into your space. I listened to Diane Reeves' soundtrack from Good Night, and Good Luck and knit more of my mitten. And tried to commit to taking the train to work on the days that I open the store, because sitting and knitting and listening to music is way better than driving back and forth.

For dinner: Indian take-out and watching Rear Window. Then carrot ice cream cake (I have no idea but it sounds healthy and ice cream-y at the same time) with only two candles: one to mark the event and one to wish on. Because you're never too old to stop wishing, right?