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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Antique Store on your 50th is Probably Not a Good Idea, or My Birthday, Part I

The morning of my 50th birthday was like so many other weekend days. Make the bed, have coffee, check FaceBook, call Mary.

“What are you doing,” Willie says.

“It’s my birthday,” I say. “Before I call Mary, I thought I’d see what’s up.” I pause. “Why isn’t anyone calling me?”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s my fiftieth birthday. That’s a big deal. Maybe I should send out an invitation for drinks.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “It’s my fault, not arranging anything and being upset that nothing’s been arranged. So I’m just going to send out a quick invite, see if people want to join us after dinner.”

I fire off a quick FaceBook invite. “Drinks?” it says. “Join us at 7:00 at the Peacock.”

The phone rings. It’s Mary.

“So how’s it going,” she says. “Excited to keep getting older?”

“It’s lovely,” I grumble.

“Fifty is nifty.”

“Shaddap,” I say mildly. “What time shall we pick you up?” Willie and I had plans to hit the antique shops in her little town, and Mary had plans to join us.

“Um,” she hesitates.

My heart sinks. “What?”

“Nancy called last night. From AA? She’s having a hard time, and I need to meet with her. At the Starbucks. In an hour. Probably for a couple hours.”

I frown. My stomach tightens. It’s my birthday. We talked about getting together days ago.

“OK,” I say. “How about I call you when we get over there and we’ll work something out?”

“OK.”

But several hours later, pulling up to the first antique store, Mary does not answer her phone.

An hour after that, she’s still not answering.

And the shopping was not going well. Sure there was a plaque for the back hall: A Man Should be Rewarded by his Deeds, Not his Needs. And I found two beautifully colored handkerchiefs.

But why isn’t Mary answering her phone?

Surrounded by the past, I consider that perhaps loitering in second-hand shops on one’s 50th birthday isn’t a good idea. There is Aunt Marlys’s velvet matador paintings. There is the foot-pedal sewing machine that Grandma had.

And then I see her: Penny Brite. A doll from my childhood. I loved her, and here she is, behind glass.

The dress. I remember this dress. I washed it in the sink, my little dimpled hands working the suds. Mom let me hang it on the line, and then she let me iron it. I can see that old ironing board, hear the squeak of it being taken down.

I wander away, dangerously close to tears.

In a glass case at the end of the building are a series of hand mirrors. Heavy, beveled, they are elaborately decorated with costume jewelry, encrusted with glittering, multifaceted earrings and brooches.

There is one in particular, white and gold and silver, butterflies and dragonflies, that speaks to me. I pick it up. I look at myself.

And I burst into tears.

This is me, all over, isn’t it? Continually reflective, attracted to the glittering and deceptive.

Smoke and mirrors.

Why hasn’t anyone called me? Where is Mary?

I put the mirror down. Tears in my eyes, I go looking for Willie. I find him by a framed original poster advertising a concert for the Mothers of Invention.

“So did you find –“ Seeing my tears, he stops, mid-sentence. He awkwardly pats me on the back.

“I found what I want,” I say.

I buy the mirror.

And I go looking for Penny on Ebay.

54 comments:

mshatch said...

I don't mind getting older, really. I just don't want to look or feel like I'm getting old.

Jinksy said...

I'd swap your 50 for my 70, any day. With 71 looming in March I have no expectation, so will surely not be disappointed. I shall follow my nose when I wake up, and enjoy the day as it unfolds!!! Age is all in the mind m'dear...

Simply Suthern said...

Happy 50!!

Funny how those things take us back.

I read a post back around Christmas about toys of the past. Sooo, I went looking for the "Johnney 7 OMA" (One Man Army) I wanted as a kid.

I found it. Practically new in the box. $575. Ouch.

vanilla said...

Oh, my heart aches for you, ignored on the big five-oh and all. Oh, wait. The title indicated "part 1." I think something good might happen ere the tale concludes?

darlin said...

Happy Belated Birthday!

Thanks for the heads up, I'll steer clear of antique shops on my 50th... that's only next year and time waits for nobody, I'd best get off my computer and get out in the world, even in this damn deep freeze we're in. It's -31c, but feels like -42c with the wind chill, sheesh why did I check, now I know it's cold and I'm not over exaggerating.

Eva Gallant said...

Hope your birthday got better...waiting for part 2!

Beelzebug said...

Enjoy the 50s the 60s are crappy :)

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

50 is young Pearlie girl. You are just a young chick. Your best years are yet to come.

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

Oh Happy, Happy Birthday, in spite of it all. .. and my wish for you is that you found Penny on Ebay :)

Ach du lieber said...

Happy Birthday, Pearl!

This, too, shall pass.

mermaid gallery said...

50 is the new 90..er 30....just be glad you made it so far....nothing worse than not having birthdays at all!...but there is so much pressure to be fabulous on that one day...my b'day is this sunday and i'm celebrating quietly....but exuberantly....and no antique stores for sure!

bill lisleman said...

Since I remember your earlier post I know it turns out good. You do describe the bittersweet trip down memory lane really well. Antique shops are in the business of selling memories.

Joanne said...

I can't keep days straight, let alone birthdays. I once was a year ahead of myself, so I did spend the next year a year younger. I am so oblivious to them my daughters were able to pull off magnificent 60 and 65th surprise parties. I'm on the watch for 70, thouogh.

SparkleFarkle said...

Please find solice in knowing that I will always be older than you.

Happy Birthday from your loving fossil,
SparkleFarkle~~~~~*

P.S. And remember, "Penny Brite's world is everywhere!" Live it. Breathe it. Be there.

Can we have cake now? Come on, it will make you feel better. It's what Penny'd do, I'm sure. I'll go get the plates and forks, okay?

R. Jacob said...

In my 40's I used to drive everyone nuts when asked how old I was I would say I am going to be, whatever age, on my next birthday. It was like I was prepping myself. When I turned 50, I stopped. It wasn't funny anymore. Now the years and birthdays are flying up at me. Never the less
Pearl, Happy Birthday!
cyber
xxoo
ray

jenny_o said...

If only the ones planning the surprise would realize how odd it is that they aren't calling and wishing you a thumping good day! Not only odd, either - it makes for a pretty desolate feeling... made worse, apparently, by antiques browsing. Note to self: don't do that :)

Lisa Golden said...

Part 2! part 2!

Georgie Horn said...

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...Cry if I want to....

Suldog said...

I think most of us who have hit the half-century mark probably find things in the mirror that others do not see at all. And I mean to say both good and bad things.

Can I say "Happy Birthday!" after this sort of post? Even if it's inappropriate, I'm going to.

Happy Birthday!

And, if I was there, I'd give you a big ol' hug, whether you wanted it or not.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I don't know about you but every mirror I look into has some old woman in it..so I stopped looking. Happy Birthday Pearl..you young thing:)

Susan Kane said...

Hey, Pearl, you're just hitting your stride. Your mind is razor sharp, and your wit is strong enough to humble any young smart aleck comic. Look at antique stores as a chance to view the lives that survived and rejoiced.
I hit 60 recently. It wasn't that bad.

Leenie said...

Yeah, that birthday thing. Funny how each one affects us differently. Fifties can be depressing without friends.

Keeping you in the dark--that's what friends are for. Heh, heh.

Craver Vii said...

I threw a surprise party for my wife's 50th. I hate surprise parties, but she loves them. To throw her off, I did a minimalist, perfunctory deal, and it seemed to work. I can be convincing that way, because I am a boring minimalist, in real life. My idea of a great time is just hanging out. It's even better if I get to nap. But I guess that's not you.

Reading today's post, I squirmed for you, because I wanted you to be in full celebration mode for your 50th. You deserve it.

Staying tuned for the rest of the story...

Craver Vii said...

Please ignore the extra comma in there. My English grammar is at least at a fourth grade level.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I hope your birthday turned out to be loverly. Something tells me it did. For me the funny thing about browsing in antique shops is I keep finding stuff in there that I STILL USE! Don't let the number get you down. I hope you have many many more birthdays ... and don't let any of THOSE numbers get you down, either.

Crystal Pistol said...

Happy birthday, my friend. I'm sorry you shed tears on your special day. I know how you feel about the smoke and mirrors. But that's not really you. You're the real deal, girl. I can feel it my bones.

Sometimes we just need to cry. It does help. A good cry helps.

Susan in the Boonies said...

There IS a happy ending to this, right? Tell me there will be one tomorrow, or I'll bust out crying.

Wah!!!

~hugs to Pearl, from Sooze~

Ali - My Suitcase Full of Tricks said...

Happy 50th to one of the most talented writers around.

Sush said...

Awww I bet you would've had the same reaction if it wasn't your birthday.
Happy Fifty~

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I'm glad I remember your comment from last Sunday so I know the tears were temporary. But so real at the time. When I turned 50 I remembered how my mom had hated that birthday. So I threw a party at the carousel, with hula hoops and puzzles and Twister and other kids' games. Cuz I'm all young-at-heart like that. Now I think, wow, 50 is young!

Michelle said...

Penny on EBAY?
You won't find AK's there.
NYE neither with ROOT.
Know why?
DISATEDA.
They talked and broke all that " silence".

G said...

Each decade has been better than the last for me...

Happy 50th :)

Amber Star said...

Happy Birthday a little belated. My daughter celebrated her 50th on the 13th in Cabo with her sister and brother and brothers and sisters in law and a good time was had by all and the whales swam close enough for them to see them, and she arranged for all of them to have lobster and steak in the bar, and for gosh sakes, I so wish you had been with them! You would have made a wonderful + one.


The other day someone said something about something made in the 50s or 60s and some little twerp said, "Oh! Mid Century!" Well, I can tell you that has bothered me a good bit! Mid Century indeed.

Kiddo, you act and have fun like a teenager.

SparkleFarkle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh, Pearl, I know it hurts when people close to you seem to forget a birthday -- especially a landmark birthday like 50! I can sense that something really great is going to happen in the next installment. At least, I hope so! Happy birthday again, dear Pearl!

mapstew said...

Happy 50th!! And you're STILL 7 months younger than me! 50 is feckin' brill! :¬)

xxx

Linda O'Connell said...

One by one, all of us canceled on my friend's 30th, then an hour later we all barged in to surprise her. She was propped against the wall draining a bottle of wine, not as amused as we were. But it turned out ok. Hope yours did too.

NotesFromAbroad said...

My birthday is March 23rd.
I will see if I can remember ( I am old, my memory is going ) to write to you and tell you if I felt pitiful being older ... That should make you feel better, me being older than you ... unless by then I or you forget who we are ...

Gigi said...

I've only had two surprises for a birthday (my 40th) that caught me off guard. I'll be one the lookout for my 50th....unless they've all abandoned me by then....which is entirely possible.

Happy, happy birthday, Pearl. If I could wrap you up in a big, old hug I would.

Belle said...

Being continually reflective is what makes you so interesting, Pearl. The mirror sounds lovely. I can't wait for part 2.

Daisy said...

Did we wish you a Happy Birthday? Hope it is a good celebration ... you deserve it. If we were there, we'd have a drink with you. We'll have a drink in your honour anyway!

Lolamouse said...

Can't wait to hear Part II! A most happy birthday to you! I'm just 2 years behind you, girl! I know how those mirrors can lie!

JeannetteLS said...

I think we tend to look at ourselves through circus funny mirrors... I do not look at all if I can avoid it, because as I gallop toward sixty, I have decided to remain somewhere between 2 and 8. Just stay there. When I was that age I could imagine myself anything, so why not?

I found my fifties curiously freeing and now have the sense that the day after I turn sixty, I will be shedding some sort of false something... or emerge a butterfly at last.

I like blogs. I read your words. You are beautiful and that's all I know.

Pearl said...

Oh, you all are just so lovely. :-)

Kisses and hugs,

Pearl

HermanTurnip said...

When I was young I used to think that I'd never get old. Now that I'm older, I can't believe that I was ever so young. Life is so strange...

Sioux said...

Perhaps instead of going to an antique store and being surrounded by ancient things, you should go to the "People of Walmart" site and revel in the fact that you would NEVER wear some of the get-ups and hair styles they enjoy...

With age comes wisdom...Most of the time.

The Elephant's Child said...

A belated Happy Birthday to another Capricorn. And I know I am old, but I (mostly) don't feel it. Quite weird. I hope you find a comfortable spot in your skin soon.

Tempo said...

I stopped hanging out in antique stores when I started finding stuff that was new when I was a kid...I hope youre feeling brighter now Pearl.

River said...

I love a good wander through an antique store. I think I'll do that one day soon, I could use a nice hand mirror.

Happy Birthday and I hope part 2 is a little less sad.

Symdaddy said...

Welcome to the club Perlchen!

The slippery slope starts here.

Thinks: Should I be associating with oldies?

Glen said...

It's not the years that age you - it's the actions - no wonder you were feeling it walking around antique shops - come on Pearl that's for the over 60 - you're hitting them too soon! hang in there mate.

btw is this comment font big enough? would it be easier to read IF I WROTE IN CAPITALS?

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Happy birthday!
I can see the danger in going to an antique store on a major birthday--the nostalgia trip could be costly.

skoots1mom said...

i know how you feel...
i usually only get 2 or 3 comments on my posts...
looks to me like you've done well today (51 comments) so you weren't alone
heads up!
like paula deen says, "i woke up on this side of the dirt; it's a GREAT day!"

Austan said...

Glad I read pt 2 first!
I loved Penny Brite too- haven't thought of her in years! That basketball head that tilted!