Year of the Crystal

I always feel a bit reminiscent on my birthday because it also marks the anniversary of my arrival in Seattle, of the day I left home forever, of the day I met my lifelong friends. I spent my eighteenth birthday on an airplane, terrified and excited about my new adventure.

Inevitably I think back to the first time I met my new family. I was wearing a plaid skirt and I probably looked like I was twelve years old. Alecia had a perm. The names on the door across from mine were Sarah and Larah, and before I met those girls and realized one was a Philippina and one was ghostly white, I thought they might be twins. Kristin tried to convince everyone that her hair was naturally blond. My roommate was Genevieve, a sophomore. She was bold and confident and popular, and seemed invincible to me.

In 1996 I was living in New York, and on my birthday my friends, led by Sarah, sent me a memory book they made of our friendship to date. In it, they recapped the first few birthdays we spent together:

I remember how you used to sit and sulk on your birthday because no one paid attention to it (it being the first day of school and all). Let’s have a revue of the last five big B-days:

#1: We completely overlooked it because, heck, we hardly knew you.
#2: We forced you out of bed and dragged you to Red Robin where you paid for your own meal.
#3: We can’t remember what happened this year (1992), we think Jeff took you out, but we are not sure.
#4: This year we had a party at the girls’ house. You wore a green sweater. That’s the extent of my memory.
#5: This year was the big hooplah. This year made up for the other years. The 70s party was the event of the season and Chris’ suit was the envy of all.

And now we are celebrating birthday number six. Do you feel old yet? Don’t expect me to keep track after this year.

Tonight I will see my friends, and we will drink, and we will toast to our friendship of fifteen years, and we will likely choke at the realization that we are old enough to have known each other for so long.

I’m not usually one to feel like I’m old. Having children doesn’t make me feel old, driving a minivan doesn’t make me feel old, even gaining a few pounds doesn’t make me feel old.

What makes me feel old is when college students call me ma’am, when they say to me that U2 must be really important to my generation, and when I start a story with the words, “Fifteen years ago, when I was in college…”

But I guess maybe if I really thought about it, I feel old in the way wine ages. Wine tastes better with age, its flavor is reminiscent of its beginnings, and the oak barrel infuses its spice and vanilla aroma. Exposure to oxygen changes the wine.

Everything that touches wine – from the grape, to the barrel, to the type of glass we pour it into, to the air we breath – it all influences its outcome, its flavor, its impact on who comes in contact with it. We reject distasteful wine and we savor beautiful wine.

I feel beautiful in my age because of all that has touched me. Thank you.

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