The day before my twenty-seventh birthday was a rough one. I wore my favorite coral sweater and best makeup (outlook and outfit, you know), but still found myself locked in the bathroom stall at work with tears threatening to drag my new eyeliner down my cheeks.
I am stronger than this, I thought. And I am. I bravely plowed through the day, and held myself together until well after dinner.
That's when, unexpectedly, the tears overwhelmed me and streamed down my face in wide rivers. Spluttering and gasping for air, my words came out in choking sobs, barely understandable through my hiccups.
Here's the truth: twenty-six was exhausting. It was wonderful and busy, full of dirty diapers and new teeth, first steps and late nights. It was joy and pride, frustration and fear. It was post-baby euphoria coupled with post-baby crazy. Twenty-six was tattooed with the pain that comes from knowing all is not right and being unable to fix it. Twenty-six was hiking with a pebble in my boot, pressing into my skin. I shook my shoe between steps, trying to find a safe spot for it. I stopped altogether several times, sitting on the trail attempting to shake it out, but when I put my shoe back on, there was the stone, rattling about, irritating my sole. (Soul?)
The night before my twenty-seventh birthday, I heard my husband whispering to my baby in the other room. She toddled out, awkwardly stumbling a bit from side to side, with a package of sour worms clutched her chubby little hands. She didn't bring it to me, of course, but I didn't mind. Behind her was my sweetheart, with a card that made me laugh and a gift that made me cry. (Again.) Twenty-six year old me cried a lot.
Here's more of the truth: I didn't deserve a present for my twenty-seventh birthday, but I'll tell you who did. A thousand of his own birthday gifts won't repay my Paddy for surviving my twenty-six. That he can tease and laugh and love me after this year-long hike with a rock in my shoe is a testament to the kind of man his mother raised.
Lest you think that my family and I are entirely defined by my crazy twenty-six, let me tell you about the first day of twenty-seven. I wore baby blue and plum because I believe in outlook and outfit. I was busy applying my best make-up when my Schmoopsie galloped back down the stairs after leaving for work several minutes before. His dazzling smile, which has left me slightly dizzy for the last decade, was illuminated by the flickering of birthday candles stuck into a bacon breakfast burrito from Betos. (As an aside, I adore cheap Mexican food.) He sang, and rubbed in the fact that, for the next 5 months, I am twenty-seven while he remains a youthful twenty-six.
Hours later, we had the following exchange via text message:
Me: Saw an old guy driving straight with his blinker on. That's practically me now.
Paddy: Seriously. You shoulda followed him to the senior center.
Me: Heard they're serving meatloaf.
Paddy: Blended up, though.
Me: Good thing. Forgot my dentures.
On the first day of twenty-seven, I wore the pearls my grandparents gave me when I graduated from college. I had never found a good enough reason to wear them before. I decided the first day of twenty-seven was the day.
I am certain that twenty-seven will have moments of crazy. I still have a rock in my hiking boot.
But I have my bacon breakfast burrito, and I'm wearing my pearls. (Some version of a 'pearls before swine' reference is bouncing around in my head, but I'm not witty enough to craft it.)
Happy birthday to me.