birthday gifts and ferris wheels

Though it began with my son having a grand mal seizure, my fifty-fourth birthday became a treasured one. Dear friends from my childhood growing up in Seattle sent me messages. Family members from afar, and homies nearby called to sing me the birthday song. Michael came home early from work and took care of Calvin while I did a little bit of writing, then showered.

Though I was dying to nap, by afternoon—thanks perhaps to cannabis—Calvin had rebounded from his seizure well enough to take him for a ride in the car. We headed up the river to Lisbon Falls, past Michael's new photo studio up to a favorite place called the Big Dipper where I got a hot fudge brownie sundae, a treat I hadn't enjoyed in years. Calvin sat on the picnic table bench—something he wasn't able to manage just a couple of years ago—while Michael spoon-fed him some of his coffee-oreo "noreaster."

Since Calvin continued to do pretty well, we went to the dvd store and rented The Princess Bride, my choice for something light to interrupt the nagging sorrow from recent events in the news and at home. At the grocer, Calvin was compliant and walking strongly and steadily as ever, a gift in itself.

At home, Lauren dropped in for cocktails, followed by Lucretia who arrived with a lovely bouquet of flowers and a basket full of heirloom tomatoes, poblano peppers, broccoli, onions and greens from her farm.

Later, Michael and I opened a delicious Bandol given to us years ago by our lovelies Steve and Gretchen, and with it toasted another spin around the sun. Glasses in hand, we stood outside in the dark, arms around each other while hot, bright flames seared a thick ribeye. When the smashed-potato fries were sufficiently crisp and the steamed asparagus tender (all Michael's doing, of course) we sat facing each other at our butcherblock bar listening to Dire Straights and The Police on vinyl. As we ate, I opened cards, each one with a sweet birthday greeting that made my heart ache missing loved ones. The last one I opened was from Michael's aunt. A photographer in her own right, her handmade cards always include one of her photos pasted on the front. The image on the card, taken from high on what appears to be a ferris wheel, moved me unexpectedly and deeply. A flood of emotion gushed out in a tearful mix of exhaustion, sorrow, regret, love and gratitude. From her perch, she had aimed her camera at a boardwalk carnival and caught a bird's-eye view of striped canopies atop carousels, white umbrellas, kiddie rides, people milling about, and a roller coaster, something which, though it's my favorite ride in the world, I haven't ridden in years. Beyond the midway stretches a vast beach peppered with hundreds of sunbathers and beyond that, at the top of the photo, the teal open ocean. The scene she had captured for me was an enormously rich and vivid world—one beyond my reach physically—expressed in a simple five-by-seven photo.

I released all the tears that were in me, so grateful to—from my relative confines as the mother of a disabled and chronically ill child—be able to experience a new place and imagine myself smelling cotton candy and sea mist, hearing the surf and the gleeful shrieks of excited children, feel myself dart and weave in the salty breeze between happy carnival goers. What a gift to see the outside world on my birthday, from up high on a green ferris wheel.

flowers from Lucretia

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