Who was born on August 23?
Their house was a magical place. A long, low ranch, whose owners had a musical doorbell that would always bring the wife running, wiping her hands on her apron, full of warmth and hustling us through the door of the house that invariably smelled of whatever delicious feast she was busily preparing. Her husband would be right behind her, echoing the welcome, taking drink orders, and holding onto the collar of his latest hunting dog.
These lovely friends of my parents were fixtures in my early years, a couple with whom we celebrated holidays and enjoyed tennis picnics. We always looked forward to seeing them and we always had such a festive and delicious time when we did.
One chilly evening when I was eleven, we were invited over for dinner to meet our hostess’s sister. I remember sitting on the step down into the lush living room, where more than once I had fallen asleep on the sofa waiting for the revelry to end, with the sister. She was telling me she had a little girl in California, just my age.
“You do? What’s her name? When’s her birthday?”
The next thing I knew she told me the most startling fact: our birthdays were the same day. By the time we were summoned to dinner, we had figured out that Christine and I had been born just about twenty minutes apart. I announced it all at dinner and in her ever-accommodating way, our hostess squealed that it would be wonderful to celebrate our birthdays together.
We would meet during the summer we turned Twelve (this picture is Christine visiting my room in our farmhouse) and become pen pals. That summer she was making a short visit and returned to California before we could celebrate our birthday.
The next summer turned out to be much better. The summer of our thirteenth birthday, Christine came for an extended stay with her aunt and uncle. To my delight, we spent a lot of time together that summer, helping Christine’s aunt around the house, listening to music, swimming, having picnics and dinners, and even taking a memorable road trip to attend an opera and stay at a hotel. I was so ever-present in the household that summer, that I soon begin echoing Christine and calling my parents’ friends, who had always been Dr. and Mrs. to me, Uncle and Aunt. In this way, these wonderful people became my life-long extended family.
On our thirteenth birthday, we did indeed celebrate together. I feel certain Aunt made her famous multi-step fried chicken and I remember a bakery cake lavish with frosting flowers. Treating us like twins meant we got many of the same gifts, including Swiss Army knives and the Beatles’ Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band LP. Remarkably, I still have both of these, albeit the LP collects dust in the basement as I don’t have a turntable and the Swiss Army knife is stiff with the detritus of years of misuse.
I also still have my friend. The fact that I haven’t seen her in nearly twenty years doesn’t diminish the pleasure with which I have watched from afar as she has found her calling and raised her family. It seems to me no accident that our children are nearly the same ages, and even if our communications are limited to Christmas greetings and “can you believe we’re (fill in the age)” birthday cards, I am honored to share a birthday with this beautiful, laughter-filled woman.
As with just about any day, there are plenty of famous people born on August 23, Shelley Long and Gene Kelly being two of my favorites. Fifty years ago this country was in turmoil at home and abroad, the Rolling Stones were touring and the Grateful Dead played their first concert with Jerry Garcia, the historic voting rights act passed into law, and a gallon of gas cost thirty-one cents. And fifty years ago on August 23 in two different families, two bundles of joy arrived within a few minutes of each other but miles and miles apart. One day I hope we can celebrate our birthday together in person, but I will always treasure sharing Christine’s with her. With all my love and gratitude for sharing this important day with me, Happy Fiftieth Birthday to a woman who comes from a long line of remarkable women, each of whom knows how to celebrate in style, and whom I am honored to count as one of my dearest friends. And no, Christine, I can’t believe we’re (almost) fifty!
With my love and thanks, as ever, for sharing my journey. Happy New Moon! Next time I “see” you here, I’ll be Fifty, or the Writer Formerly Known as Forty-Nine. Embracing the next chapter, Rxo