So. Today I, a storyteller, celebrate my 50th birthday. I am actually very happy about this and it seems like a good day to share some of the stories, the dialogue, that I have relied upon over this half-century to answer what makes me, me.
The primary story is one I know only because my parents shared it with me, as it happened when I was only two weeks old - two weeks old and still weighing in at less than six pounds!
I made my entrance into the world three weeks early at only five pounds, nine ounces and measuring eighteen inches in length. Not much had changed by my second week, but the doctor dismissed quite confidently any worries during my check-up, as he watched me kick and hit back at him reflexively: "She may be tiny, but she's a dandy. She has a mind of her own and she's not afraid to use it."
I took that story to heart more and more through the years. Even now I do not understand how the doctor saw
so much in me at just two weeks, nor do I understand why those remarks resonated with me from a very young age. Maybe I recognized that such a remark from a respected person was a remark worth keeping, worth treasuring?
As I write this I consider another remark I heard too many times to count over the course of my life, and I realize that it offers an interesting counterpoint to that basic theme of an independent mind. The remark has usually been, "You wear your heart on your sleeve." For a period of time, I confess, I caught undertones in those voices that made me think I might be a fool to wear my heart thus.
Not anymore. Not for a long, long time. Somehow, somewhere along the line I decided I was not doing myself or anyone else any favors by keeping my heart out of sight.
Somehow I heard my independent mind decrying the demotion of my heart and I stitched it back onto my sleeve. Maybe it was after a fresh reading of St. Exupery's "The Little Prince," the part that tells us, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
I guess you could say that
I decided to give my mind its eyes.
So. Here I
am celebrating - yes,
celebrating, a milestone birthday, but celebrating especially the gifts of ageless heart
and mind - gifts I would give to everyone if I could.
Photos: Me, at 2; Me, at 3; Me, at 6 in my new school uniform; Me, at 21, with my best friend, Renee; Me, at 30-something goofing around at a museum in Richmond, VA.