By Ellyn Oaksmith
I don’t know why I picked 47. Maybe, just maybe, I am getting wiser. This was the year I made my birthday about love. All kinds of love: sisterly, romantic and that most important love, that shores up women approaching the rocky shoals of middle age: my friends. My sister kicked it off by quietly asking me if she could throw a mid-week gathering for me. Wine and cake, six o’clock to eight o’clock. At first my mind scrolled through a list of motherly duties: homework patrol, soccer, carpool, piano lessons, riding lessons… How could I carve out time on a weeknight to drink wine with my girlfriends?
It was as easy as saying “Yes.” Keeping the guest list small was easy: it would just be a small group of women with many connections: book group, volunteering at the school, our children, all living on the same suburban hill. My sister baked a cake and opened wine. There would be cheese and crackers for those who would miss dinner. She’d keep it simple. I was surprised at how excited I was. Little did I know the reserves of joy this gathering would unleash.
Each day I logged onto the Evite.com to see who had responded, my heart warming with each yes. By the weekend every single woman who had been invited was coming. I was Sally Fields at the Academy Awards. “You love me. You really love me.” My inner eleven year old, terrified that no one would come to her party, was silenced. Bring on the cupcakes.
My birthday was on a Sunday, the party, the Wednesday before. By Monday I was aglow, smiling at strangers, buying treats for my kids at the grocery store, paying attention to the things I love about my husband, enjoying dinner together instead of living for lights out. I was Gene Kelley in “Singing in the Rain,” spinning my umbrella over my shoulder, enjoying the slap of raindrops on my face. Did I mention that I live in Seattle?