I learned at an early age not to wait for someone to raise their glass to me. Instead, I brazenly toast myself.
This came about on a birthday that no one, including family, remembered.
I wept and wept rising off the mat promising myself, I’d never have such a lonely, miserable birthday again.
I’d celebrate without guilt or shame and the rest of the world could go scratch, as my Aunt Tillie used to say. And no, she didn’t remember either.
This is the same aunt who, when I was a kid, would stick five bucks in my Keds when I wasn’t looking.
I was the black sheep for running away from a very toxic, violent home convinced had I stayed, I wouldn’t be writing to you now. I’d be dead from abuse, alcoholism or a drug overdose.
Being forgotten feels like a small price to pay for remaining on the planet, unless you’re in the throes of it.
Never say die, no pun intended…
Each year on my birthday I buy myself a present and go out for a lavish lunch. I usually make that gift a dress wearing it on that 18th of July with heels and pearls not caring what any of it costs.
The bill on my Am Ex always gets paid quickly since a good job usually shows up on the heels of my heels. Of course this year will be a tad different…socks and and a Lotto ticket will be more like it, but a gift is a gift.
It’s probably one of the healthiest things I’ve ever done for myself…confirming my worth by bestowing generosity onto me not waiting for anyone else to do it.
When I turned twenty-five and met my late, great friend Jackie, for 27 years I finally had someone who did remember. I’d meet her for lunch at Island, a bistro in Manhattan’s Carnegie Hill, where we’d drink and laugh while I opened up the wonderful gift she’d always give me.
When she died on February 10th, 2009, I went back to having lunch alone.
I tried going to Island without her, but it made me too sad. I heard her say, find a new place Susannah, that’s pretty with great food…even if you can’t see me, just know I’ll be there drinking champagne giggling, right alongside you.
And as far as replacements go, if I can’t be with Jacks I’d just as soon celebrate alone.
There’s just something about that day calling for her.
I dreamt about Jackie on her fifth anniversary that inspired this essay. She was all smiles dressed in a beautiful suit, the Renee Mancini patten leather pumps she always wore gleaming through my sleep.
It reminded me, it’s really our responsibility to love ourselves first, setting the example for the world to follow not waiting for another Jackie to come along to relieve us of our post.
I do have great faith in the dead I believe still visit when we need some gentle coaxing from our gloom. It also tells me she’s happy wherever her soul might be, celebrating not only herself, but those she loved.
July is still a ways away, but I’ll don a pretty dress and lift my glass to the both of us.