Getting ready for the first of my birthday parties (not spoilt honestly- birthday next week & I have a family that cannot be in the same place at the same time as my wedding once showed – hence multiple parties). Of course I have Glee on in the background (cheap as I am I’m listening to previews on ITunes – …I use preview so much now that I automatically expect all songs to end abruptly at 1min 12 sec).
This birthday thing is interesting. I’m 40 next Friday. 40!!! My mother keeps saying, “I can’t believe I have a 40 year old daughter” and then telling me how none of her colleagues can believe she’s got a 40 year old daughter either. This simultaneously makes me feel ancient and her feel youthful looking so short straw for me. She’s also been saying it for the past couple of months thereby effectively robbing me of at least a quarter of my 39th year. In the interests of fairness though she also says I look in my 20s – but in the interests of even more fairness she was fitted for her first pair of glasses last week.
In some ways I feel older than my parents. Or at least my parents as I tend to think about them. This sounds odd I know. But the thing is my parents had me when my father was 17 and my mother 18. And I was born in the May after they married in the December. Hmmm…. Yet my mother still denies premarital sex ….so I might be a miracle. Who knows.
Anyway a 17 and an 18 year old getting married in a hurry because of pregnancy (think registry office, frowning relatives and a notable lack of white and you have their wedding photos) – it will come as no surprise to you that they are no longer married (I refer you to my opening paragraph & the family that cannot be in the same room at the same time). Indeed they had a difficult marriage – alcohol, violence, anger, jealousy – and that was on a good day. In some ways I feel that I parented them – particularly after the divorce were they both separately fell apart. I was 11 at the time. My brother was 7. It was hard.
But it’s those days that stick strongly in my memory. I feel like I never even knew them when they were 40. By then I’d met my husband & left home & was barely speaking to either of them. Various things had happened & they had hurt me badly. In particular once they found new partners I was somewhat demoted – back to being a child who needed sterner parenting and academic goals. It was confusing. In the end I reached breaking point & made a new life for myself with my husband. But things are better now. I cannot remain estranged from people for long (except anyone who calls me fat….they are dead to me) and today I am friends with both.
I’ve learned to forgive. And perhaps reaching 40 makes it easier. As I say I feel older than them because I’m older now than they were when it all went wrong and they broke my heart. For years I couldn’t properly forgive them for that. But now I know how uncertain and scared of things I still feel (you’ve all read my LFR posts). So why should I expect so much more of them when I look back to their 20s and 30s?
They did their best. And they still do their best. And I’m lucky I have two parents who want to celebrate my birthday with me. It’s just that there’s a little 11 year old inside me who wants them to do it at the same time in the same room.