Wednesday, August 26, 2009


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.


Di Mackey said...


Wishing you all the very best things in the year ahead.

Di xx

Barbara said...

Thank you so very much:) I hope you know you are one of the lovely 'gifts' to have come my way in the last year ... ;););)

Jennifer said...

Yay! I celebrate you today too, Barb! Sometimes I don't run after the things i desire to do...but when I talk to you or hear from you via inspire me to keep running toward the things that make me, me. You are one of my idols. One of my mentors. I so wish we still lived near one another...but, I will be happy with the creative outlets that you so willingly let your friends and family delve into with you :) And I LOVE getting emails from you :) Miss you so much and wanting you to know how incredible of a person you are. One of a kind. I wouldn't change a think about ya! Hoping you are blessed beyond belief on your Birthday!
Love you bunches,
Jennifer (Drewry) Van Der Woodsen (soon!)

BrianC said...

Happy 5-0. My wife celebrated her 50th back in February, and the only downside for her has been the appearance of AARP mail in our box. I hope you're spared that craziness. Enjoy the day (and do something special tonight)!

Barbara said...

Jen, Jen, dear Jen! Every day I look at the mrmaids you drew for me and I smile and remember your vivacious, wonderful friendship. I don't think I will ever be able to tell you what an inspiration YOU have been for ME - but I'll keep tryin'! We'll see one another soon (maybe sooner than we know;))

And Brian - thank you!!! We're going to my favorite local Irish pub this evening. This girl loves her Guinness. It's kinda creepy the way AARP doesn't miss a beat, isn't it? Just because they sent it doesn't mean I have to reply, right? (But there is the thought of a discount ... hmmm:))