Sunday, April 06, 2008

Blogging Winchester: Birthday

It's my birthday. I last spent my birthday with my parents 5 years ago when I turned 50. In most years recently, I have tried to spend the day alone, wandering my home town of San Francisco, taking myself out to an extravagant life of under- or uncooked beef or fish. Last year, I spent the day in Berkeley wandering the campus of the alma mater, and purchasing silly knickknacks like a bright yellow logo long-sleeved T-shirt that is still a favorite. I also bought shoes last year ... buying shoes is always a big deal for me since I have more than a slight paranoia about clothing shopping.

I discovered tonight that my father and I share the "counting" fascination ... counting things when they are there to be counted. Non counters would never recognize this, but for those of us who count, a collection of things simply demands a number. I never knew that father counted. It was a warm moment ... a little genetic crosscurrent. I don't know why I count. I have mechanisms to stop myself from counting when it becomes annoying or counter-productive. I no longer count the number of lights that are on in a room, and when I try to count things such that they interfere with thought, I think about random strings of numbers for a few seconds until I have interrupted the flow ... then I can return to the higher planes of thought that are the stuff of greater mental satisfaction. Father says that he counts Christmas lights ... I count Christmas ornaments, and I have taken photos such that I will be able to report accurately on the number of ornaments on my tree when I get around to it.

Sharing the counting thing, though, makes me think about the deep currents of family. We are a family in the western, Anglo-Saxon mode ... well as Anglo-Saxon as one can be when one's grandparental names were one each of Scottish, English, German, and Dutch. But the Anglo-Saxon thing is a good bookmark ... it represents a family that is small and less expansive, and one whose members drift into independent lives more readily. We are not like those families of those nationalities who count third cousins thrice removed as close as we do a brother or sister. No complaint there one way or the other. Family is as old as our species, and as variable as the mountains and plains, the valleys and shores which our species has occupied. I distrust the notion that family is first ... but it is certainly deep.

Last night, all the locals met at the Country Kitchen. We missed our cousins from Toronto who could not make it. Since Dad's stroke, we have become much closer to them as they have been so kind and concerned for Ma and Pa. They normally arrive with a full passel of assorted offspring whom I have only known in the last few years ... an exuberant bunch who meld with the Ottawa/Winchester based offspring of similar age. We are all sometimes a little loud for sweet Mother, but that is to be expected when families gather in their dozens. I look forward to seeing all of them when my sister arrives, husband by her side, from Australia in October.

The Country Kitchen does all of Chinese, Italian, Greek, Canadian, and modern veggie food ... and probably a few more. I had the Chinese which was shall we say, gnarly. I envied my sister-in-law's souvlaki ... perhaps I will experiment with that the next time. Most of the young folks, and Mother and Father and I, had the Chinese buffet despite my brother's warning that no locals ever dare go there. The young folks are assorted nieces and nephews, and a few girlfriends. All the boys are in their 20s but one, now, and it is such a delight to know them as adults. Even so early in their 20s, they are mellowing ... perhaps learning that the old saw that being young is the best time is a a fraud ... it is adulthood that rocks. Still, the youngest among them, my niece almost a teenager, is smart and warm and a delight to be with.

Me blowing out the candles ... 9 of them which has no relationship to my 55 years. It took me 3 blows, but I am a little leery of blowing so hard as to spittle a cake, as it were. I think the crowd was unimpressed by my candle technique

Winchester gives me a sense of a calm that is not really there. It is hard to know how a little town like this perseveres, and it is frightening to think about how quickly it too could be dragged into the morass of the soulless present that most of us try to navigate without abandoning our souls. (A propos of that, the local news on TV suddenly announces that their weather report is sponsored by some Hummer dealership ... I suppose Hummer owners may want to keep an especially close track on the global warming to which they are indiscriminately and disproportionately contributing ... so I quickly flipped the channel to a French program about drama or something. I love listening to Quebecois French even when I am not paying attention.)

Today was about laying about. I never managed to shower. I left the little apartment only to walk the 9-pound Jack Russell, Hershey, and to get some bread and eggs for our eggs and pea meal bacon lunch with one brother. Supper was pizza with the other brother and his wife. Sweet niece all day long. All very relaxing.

And now I am relaxing in a reclining chair to the smooth music of father's snoring, while I write my web 2.0 blog. The chair probably vibrates if I knew how to make it do so ... but that would probably wake up any of the numerous octogenarians grabbing a few deserved hours of slumber only a thin wallboard away from where I sit.

I keep forgetting it is my birthday. I keep forgetting to be dark. I keep forgetting to speculate on history and the terrible future which present ignorance portends. I keep forgetting to be skeptical.

A nice break ... a sweet birthday.

Photos by Arod, except the birthday candle which is one of a series by Darren.

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