It was a warm December 3rd like today, only it was a Friday, instead of a Monday, and the weather was a delightful surprise instead of a wildly fluctuating (and disturbing) norm.  She remembers large swaths of grass in the backyard, and the color green beneath the melting snow.

She had already tried to reach her husband, and two of her sisters, but no one was there. Texting and Facebook didn’t exist yet; and email wouldn’t lend the immediacy that this long-awaited news deserved.

She resigned herself to her aloneness and opened the birthday gift sent by a childhood friend. They had been together that August when an old favorite came on the radio and they swooned in appreciation.  She rushed the cd to the stereo and forwarded it to Landslide.

I took my love and I took it down…

After the first delicious play, she wanted more.  She hit the repeat button and flung open the French doors and stepped outside…

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?

The test sat on the counter beside the bathroom sink where her husband would find it, but for now she danced. She opened her arms and twirled like a girl…

So, take my love, take it down
Oh climb a mountain and turn around

She hadn’t known then how much more this song could mean; that her birthday would usher in one of the most challenging years of her life…

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you

That following August she would give birth to a healthy boy, but that blessing would be eclipsed by her mother’s diagnosis…

Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

She would travel three-hundred miles to sit beside her as she took her last breaths and the new baby cried…

And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Till the landslide brought me down

This song would be sung at the funeral, a capella, and would forever span birth and death in her heart and mind…

But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too

The new baby, 12 years later.
The new baby, 12 years later.

(Kelly Salasin, December 3, 2012)

a birthday orientation

“This too shall pass…”

Kelly Salasin, 12/8/11

It’s my favorite day of the year, and I wake… depressed.  Still.

The glass has been half-empty for days and nothing seems to shift it–not rest, or yoga, or a dinner date with a good friend; not the gym or the supplements or the love of my family.

On the eve of my birthday, I wake every hour, for no reason. I lie there with eyes wide open like a baby, as if it’s daytime. But I don’t feel any child-like wonder for the world, just despondency at my body’s chemistry gone wrong. I consider grabbing the progesterone cream beside my bed and slathering it over my body. (What would happen if I used a cup instead of a quarter teaspoon?)

December is my month. It always has been. The snow. The magic. MY birthday.  Toward the end of November, I delight in finding something at the grocery store that expires on 12/8. It’s such a perfect combination of numbers that I’m always surprised that I’m the only one marveling at them; which reminds me of something a friend once said: “Your own child looks perfect, but everyone else’s kid is just a little off.”

Even depressed, I appreciate my birthday. Even though my favorite things bring me no joy, I feel gratitude. Even though I want to weep for no reason at all, I think: This is my BIRTH day. This is my life. What a gift.

I look down at the ring my mother wore when she got pregnant–the tiny diamond on a thin band that was the only thing my father could afford, and I feel proud. Someone created me.

It perplexes me that not everyone feels this way about their own special day; that they’d prefer to let it go by unnoticed. The noticing isn’t the point. It’s the claiming. In fact, it can feel like your own special secret if no one else knows (like when you first find out you’re pregnant.)

When the end of December 8th comes, I don’t want to go to sleep. When my husband and I crawl into bed, I discuss the International Date Line with my husband, and I drift away from my day while fantasizing about chasing it around the globe.

It’s embarrassing to admit that at 48 my own birthday is still this important to me. Shouldn’t I have grown out of that by now?

On the morning next morning, I wake to find it all over.  The gloom is finally gone, and so is my special day.

But a year later, here’s what I’ve learned: It’s pretty cool to love yourself–even when you’re depressed, even when you’re not feeling special or worthy. That’s the best birthday gift of all.

Kelly Salasin, December 9, 2011