My birthday was yesterday, August 22. There are a couple of things I really love about having a late-summer birthday. For one thing, I share a birthday with Dorothy Parker (in my fantasy, we’d meet at the Algonquin and trade witty bons mots over martinis, but let’s be honest, she’d leave me in the dust before I’d even had my first sip). For another, there’s an intrinsic languor about the last week of August. Everybody knows that summer’s on its way out, but the air is still heavy and humid, and the pace of the city—of life, really—has slowed to a near crawl. There’s ample time for reflecting on the past year and thinking about what I want to accomplish in the year ahead.
As I am wont to do, I flipped through an old journal recently and came upon my birthday entry from last year. As I read, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry: my goals on last year’s birthday were exactly the same ones I’d just written down for this year. Exactly the same. Either this meant I was extremely consistent in my quest for self-improvement, or (and this is much more likely) I had not come even close to becoming The Woman I Want To Be in the past year.
Over the course of my actual birthday, though, I experienced an avalanche of Facebook birthday greetings. Many well-wishes came from friends, but lots of total strangers took a moment to send a birthday message—and isn’t that kind of lovely? I also received several videos and voicemails from loved ones’ adorable children singing “Happy Birthday.” Let me tell you, hearing kids under 5 try to pronounce “Hilary” is a one-way ticket to glee. And my heart swelled when I received a birthday card in the mail from my 80-something grandmother, with a loving note and a $20 bill tucked inside, just like when I was a kid.
Later, I met up with a dear friend whose birthday falls the day before mine, and we ate cheap-but-delicious Israeli food at a teensy-tiny West Village spot, then headed to Mezzrow for an evening filled with exquisite music, bubbly Prosecco, and lots of kibitzing with an array of musician friends who happened to stop by. As I looked around the club, I realized with amazed gratitude that I’ve spent a third of my life among jazz musicians in New York City.
My husband is, by nature, more reserved than I (he has no social media presence whatsoever, bless him!), so I will simply say that walking in the front door to find him waiting up for me—he’d worked a 12-hour day in the recording studio—was the best part of an already-fantastic day. There truly is no greater love.
Sure, I’ll keep making lists of goals on my birthday. The quest for self-improvement will continue. But I am also mindful of this line from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which I recently read on a cross-country flight: “What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”