92: Fabulous Forty

92: Fabulous Forty

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Fabulous Forty

If you have lived, take thankfully the past.

~John Dryden

“Women come into their own when they turn thirty,” an acquaintance told me as my thirtieth birthday approached. “That’s when they redecorate the house the way they want and take control of their own lives.”

I have to say that I think she got it wrong. My thirties were a blur of child-rearing years. Who had time, money, or energy to even look at the house and picture it differently? Just having it clean was a lofty enough goal.

Upon turning thirty-nine, I decided that every decade was a milestone worth celebrating and informed my family that I expected a big celebration when I reached the big four-oh. But as time went on, I changed my mind. I just couldn’t see blowing a ton of money on a party.

“You always were tight with your money,” my mom said.

She was right. But it didn’t bother me one bit. Maybe the difference between thirty and forty isn’t deciding to do what you want; it’s having a better idea of what it is you want to do.

My birthday was on a Saturday — a Saturday of one of my Sixteen Thumbs writing group meetings. I was glad. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate making it to forty than with these incredible women who understood the passion to write and who had been by my side for eight years as we cheered each other on and held each other up.

And then I hit upon the perfect plan, a far cheaper alternative to a ridiculous party. Who, I wondered, made the rule that people are supposed to receive things on their birthday just for making it around the sun another year? In my gratitude for being here, I decided that it was I who would be giving gifts as a thank you to the important people in my life for making the journey with me.

I took the interactive workbook for writing conferences that I had written and revised it into a special form so that each member of my writing group could have her own copy to use the next time she attended a conference. Best of all, I searched my computer, disks, and stray CDs for photos of the group. I also spent hours poring through quotation books and notes from writing meetings to develop a personalized cover page for the workbook.

Finally, the day arrived. I was so excited that I could hardly wait for nine o’clock to roll around. I will never forget making an unintended “grand” entrance. There they all sat around the dining room table, one empty space waiting for me.

“Here I am, and I’ve got gifts for you all,” I interrupted whatever conversation they’d been having.

“What?”

“Why?”

“It’s my fortieth birthday and I can do whatever I want. So, I am giving you all gifts in honor of my birthday.”

It was such fun watching their faces and hearing their oohs and ahs as they read the front cover, admired the photo, and perused the workbook.

I don’t know yet how I’ll choose to celebrate turning fifty, but I do know that in the meantime, I’ll savor memories of that fabulous day on my fortieth birthday, when I brought joy to my cherished friends.

~D. B. Zane

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