Thursday, April 13, 2006


I have never been one to fret about getting older. I spend most birthdays basking in My Day, knowing that I am allowed to pick where we eat for dinner and that I'll be obliged to consume my favorite yellow cake with fudgy frosting afterward. Milestone birthdays are different only because they remind me to think about where I was five, or ten, or twenty years ago and where I might land five or twenty years from now.
Five years ago, I celebrated on a sunny Saturday with a professional manicure and pedicure, good weather, and drinks followed by a heavenly dinner at my favorite restaurant with close friends. I had cleaned my house the day before, so I had that feeling of surveying my world in the state in which it was intended. I spent my afternoon reading a book on the couch. I took a nap. I opened birthday cards and packages from friends and family. My husband and my mother both came through with fancy jewelry. I partied a few days later with another cake and a family dinner. Thirty didn't scare me. I was right where I had imagined I might be when I reached this milestone. I'd married the right person, found an interesting and challenging career, lived in a cozy home in a city I loved, and had the means to pay someone else to polish my nails.

Thirty-five has arrived and I am in a place I never imagined. I am alone much of the time, in a city that hasn't yet sparked a connection. I struggle to communicate. I left a job where I felt useful to embark on the path to becoming a writer, an artistic career steeped in rejection. I wake up each morning and question every decision - should I try to go out and get some exercise? Or should I sit down and meet my page-a-day goal? Am I doing my part in taking care of our everyday needs - clean house, hot food, lightbulbs changed, since that's my main contribution our livelihood these days? Shouldn't I make some German flashcards?

I never imagined that, at thirty-five, I would be bold enough to call myself a writer. I live in a new culture and every time I am brave enough to open my mouth and speak it is a small victory. I've visited three different countries in the past three months, and I'll see at least three more by summertime. I have time to enjoy visits from family and friends, to act as interpreter and tourguide. I am making my way through all the recipes I clipped from magazines and marked in cookbooks but never before had the energy to attempt. I am creating a story that I am proud of. Tomorrow, I will celebrate my birthday by flying to a city that I've never visited before, with my husband, the person who makes me laugh harder than anyone else, and who also loves me whatever my age.

This weekend, the western world celebrates Easter, and this month the northern hemisphere celebrates spring. New life, new plants, new sunshine, new baby chicks. Every year, every five years, every decade brings something new my way.


Karl said...

When I was in Guatemala, I learned a Mayan legend about hummingbirds: they float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration. My hummingbird seemed to be sleeping in a hammock, but that's a different story. Like a hummingbird, your time in Germany seems to be spent hovering and savoring each moment as it passes, you embrace all that life has to offer and celebrate the joy of everyday. Hummingbirds remind me that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life's sweetest creation.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday. Welcome to the 35 club.


Torrid said...

I found your site via Blue Oregon (prepare for the hits!). My family is from Nurnberg; my mother and sister were both born there, and until December '05 my Oma still lived there (she died, following my Opa a couple years ago). I still have an aunt and a cousin there as well.

I have to say it was pretty great to look through your Flickr album with the pictures of the Christkindl Markt and the Burg and the bridge where everyone gets their picture taken. But I totally sympathize with your sense of displacement. It can be very hard, especially if you don't know the language (I'm luckier in that respect; I've got a decent basic conversational command).

But you should know not to be afraid or embarrassed to try your German the best you can; Germans are not like the French--they don't care a bit that you totally mangled their language, and in fact are more likely to be impressed that you even tried. (And then they will want to impress you with their English, which most people under 60 speak fairly well, and will get you off the hook).

If you ever want to ask me something about Nurnberg or the Germans or their funny Bayerisch ways (have you tried the Schlenkerla yet?), email torridjoe-at-yahoo. Any friend of BO's is a friend of mine!


Rielle said...

Happy 35th Bday! May all your wishes come true.

daniela said...

hope your day was as wonderful as your pictures! you looked lovely. happy easter too my peep-buddy.

EuroTrippen said...

Hi Blythe, just came across your blog and wanted to introduce myself. We relocated (for husband's career) from Colorado to Dresden two months ago. Like you, it's a permanent (well, as permanent as any career move ever is)relocation. There's no safety net of a 'temporary assignment'... we're, indeed, up on the high-wire balancing culture shock, feelings of inadequacy, wide-eyed wonder and exhaustion.

It's great to read your blog and find a few of those same sentiments echoed here. I'll be sure to check back often.


Blythe said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. I had a superb birthday in Spain and the sun is shining in Bavaria today. I am enjoying checking out your blogs. (EuroTrippen, I loved your post about Schrankenstein, hope your bruises have healed - I couldn't get the comments on your site to work for me?)

EuroTrippen said...

Hmmm, I'll have to check into the comment thing. Thanks for letting me know.

Anonymous said...

Just join a club, the rest will come automatically!
Working hard to improve your German is another good idea.