Just about (give or take some hours) 47 years ago, I was born at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (was I born in a college? This puzzled me for years.) in the Bronx. It also happened to be Albert Einstein’s birthday, which was supposed to be considered a remarkable coincidence, though I never understood why exactly. What did I know? We had a biography of Einstein on the bookshelf that I could see from my bed if my door was open and the light was on in the hallway. The author’s name was Clark and the spine of the book read “Einstein Clark,” which I thought was written by someone named Clark Einstein. It took me a long time to make the connection.
This year my birthday coincides with a blizzard, and I can’t really feel too sorry for myself as I get to be inside and cozy all day and probably will make blondies later (which I confess here for the first time that I prefer to brownies). It’s true that I won’t go out to dinner tonight with my boyfriend and my kids at my favorite local restaurant and get their delicious creamy polenta (which is, to be fair, essentially a stick of butter with a few grains of polenta), but I will just make myself my own birthday dinner, which will involve Brussels sprouts, which when braised in cream are possibly more heavenly than creamy polenta (trust me on this) (I first learned about this delicacy in a fancy food store in Great Barrington, Mass, when someone next to me was reaching for a pile of Brussels sprouts and a nearby enthusiast could not resist saying, Have you ever tried Brussels sprouts braised in cream??).
The other day, I was thinking about my age, naturally, and about being an adult, and I decided that for the most part, adulthood was when my life got truly good. Childhood really wasn’t for me. I have a moment from childhood that for some reason I recall vividly, which was probably around third grade when my friend Robbie and I were pretending to be Mr. Magoo and his dog (did he even have a dog? I barely watched that show.). This involved Robbie walking around on his hands and knees, wearing a scarf as a leash, and me dragging him around. But I guess as Mr. Magoo I was blind also? Anyway, I think we were in some sort of closet that had lots of coats and hats and scarves (but why we were there is probably a good question that I don’t mind never finding out) and the fun part was just leading around this dog on a scarf leash and tripping into things. What I’m getting at here is that I was having a great time and was so completely in the moment, not at all aware of anything else but the joy of pretending to be Mr. Magoo, which is why the exact location of this action is so unclear to me. I was completely unselfconscious the way that children are when they play. That was, to me, the best part of being a child. The rest of it (the lack of control, the inability to do what you wanted, the confusion, the loneliness) totally sucked.
And now I find myself with a grown-up life, which is not really the life I expected, but is, often times, the life I am grateful for. If I can be allowed, for a moment, during a time of real crisis, just to be purely happy and content, which is probably the thing to do right now to keep things in perspective. Which does not mean to give up fighting, but just to be grateful for a moment. I am 47 years old. At this point, it’s safe to say that I have perspective and actual wisdom, both of which came from experiences, many of which were not good. It seems funny to me now that one of my most vivid childhood memories involves the pure joy of acting as a blind man, leading around a dog on a scarf. It took me a long time to make the connection.