I turned 40 today, May 27, but we’re about to move, so I had my birthday party last Saturday. It wouldn’t make sense to have a party when you don’t even have a house.
Alice and I moved into this house ten years ago, right after I turned 30. It was the perfect size for the two of us. But now that we have two kids, we need more room.
We’ve been moving stuff out of our house all year. At first the goal was to de-clutter, so that we could properly stage the house when we put it on the market. It took us months to get that done. Finally, after countless hours of labor, we transformed our home into a spacious and elegant place. It looked great; it made us think, Wow, we have plenty of room, why did we ever want to move? And then we remembered that half our belongings were in storage.
When we put our house on the market in April we were terrified that no one would want it and, even if we found a new house, we would end up paying two mortgages. But fortunately, amazingly, we found a buyer within four days of putting it on the market.
Most of our friends never saw our house in its elegant and spacious phase. By the time my birthday party rolled around, the house was mostly empty, with random piles of stuff crammed against the walls.
The theme of the party was 40 Appetizers for 40 Years, and everyone brought appetizers. Such wonderful appetizers. We ended up with more than 40, for sure. I thought I would be able to at least sample each one, but there was just too much, and I couldn’t do it. Though I made a valiant effort. Points for originality go out to Kate for the chicken & waffles with maple gravy, and to Joey for the weird retro hot-dog-pieces-on-sticks-stuck-in-cauliflower.
Tons of people showed up; people I know from college, from Barnes & Noble, from the Church of the Redeemer, from Good Shepherd, from Riverview East Academy, from Arcadian Comics & Games, from the Edge House, and more. All those places and eras I’ve been writing about in these reflections came to life and intermingled. It was great to see everyone, and chat with them, and my only problem was that I couldn’t talk to everyone longer. I felt bad to neglect anybody, but dang, there were a lot of people. And I am extremely grateful to all of them for showing up.
Not everyone could make it. I was particularly disappointed that Skaught and his family, who were originally planning to come, had to cancel because of a family emergency. I understand, of course, but I missed seeing him. I don’t see him enough.
Like I said, though, it was an excellent turnout, and it was great to bring together so many fine minds to discuss the important issues of the day. Like, who is the best Batman artist? Matt, Erik, and Chris all put Marshall Rogers in first or second place; I like Rogers, but I prefer Jim Aparo. Aparo’s Batman is the platonic ideal of Batman.
Many people I talked to commented on these reflections I’ve been writing. It’s gratifying that people have enjoyed them, and I’ve enjoyed doing it, but it’s also been a weird experience for me. For years I didn’t post anything personal on Facebook. But when I decided to do this project I thought, what the heck, let’s put it all out there. Now I’ve shared all sorts of details of my life with hundreds of people, and I like to think we’ve all grown a little bit closer.
When I started the project I made a list of topics I wanted to cover, and the list kept growing and growing. Now that I’m at the end, there are glaring gaps—I wish I had written about my cousin Rebecca and her family, and about my in-laws, and so many others. The more I named specific people, the more I felt guilty about all the people I hadn’t named.
At the beginning, I thought I could include all the important parts of my life in 40 reflections. I quickly realized, though, that there was no way. I tried to cram in the high points, with occasional digressions about cassette singles and comic books. At least I showed some restraint; I could have easily written 40 reflections about comics.
Despite the omissions and oversights, I’m glad I did this. Thinking back over my life I remembered a thousand more things than what I wrote about. I started out with the attitude of, “Oh my God, how can I be 40? Where did all the time go?” Now it’s, “Come to think of it, I did a lot of things in those 40 years.” And, even better, I realize that I don’t have much to regret; there have been so many good times and great people that I have to admit I have been very, very fortunate.
What I’ve realized is that I’m not really very anxious about turning 40. I turned 40 today, and I feel the same as I did yesterday. What I’m anxious about is moving. I have spent all day stressed out about the move. Looking back, moving, and the depression that has followed moving, has been a major theme in these reflections. This project has been at least partially an attempt to defuse any potential upcoming depression.
And yes, I know it’s not that big a move. We are literally moving one street away. We will be in the same neighborhood. The point is that we are leaving our home.
Tonight is our last night in this house. I’m going to miss it. So is Abby—it finally sunk in, that the move was really happening, and she started bawling. “I don’t want to move!” she said, “I love our house!” Alice and I nodded sadly. We love our house, too. This whole process is so exhausting that after a certain point you can’t even remember why you wanted to move in the first place. And, to make things worse, we’ll be leaving our neighbors, who we love.
Our realtor, Amy, who has been a huge help through this whole process, came over tonight to check on us. We were packing boxes when she arrived. She told me that this was the perfect way to spend my 40th birthday, because it's a reminder that being a grown-up sucks.
The good news, though, is that my birthday didn’t suck. I had a wonderful party. And that party is that it is a beacon of positivity, something I can think back on when I start to get stressed, and remember all the friends and the good times and how lucky I am.
We’re moving into a new house, and maybe we’ll be there for ten years, and maybe ten years from now I’ll be writing 50 Reflections for 50 Years. Or maybe Facebook will be long gone, and people will be telepathically beaming their messages to one another. Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter; I will still have my store of experiences, and I will always have my memories of the good and bad times, of growing up in London, of my college years, Barnes & Noble, teaching, and everything else, and those times will always be a part of me. Like William Faulkner said, the past is not dead; it is not even past.