I'll be 40 years old tomorrow. There -I've said it -and it's as hard to say as it is to write! This milestone, has made me more reflective, whimsical and emotional than any of the others so far, so I thought I'd share some thoughts....
I was born in the Royal (like so many before and after me) on the 12th July 1971, ginger hair and blue eyes, first child and first grandchild on my father's side. Being born on 12th July in Northern Ireland has affected me literally from the getgo- My dad had come home briefly on that day to his parents' house, to share the news of the birth and a meal, but was unable to return to the hospital because of the marching Orangemen. (Apparently a scuffle occurred between my mild mannered father and a British soldier who refused to allow him through, although this may be just an urban myth).
The winning combination of date and ginger/orange hair caused (and continued to cause, a looong time after it ceased to be funny) great merriment within the family and Orange Lil was a favourite name for a while. As a young child, the parades were fun, largely due to the fact that I was told that they were out marching for my birthday- and I believed this wholeheartedly for longer than I care to admit. In fact, I was once apprehended in the nick of time by my dad, as I left the house to run to the end of the street, with the only flag I had to wave- a little yellow and white papal flag from the John Paul II visit to Ireland. As a young child, all I saw were the beautiful uniforms with shiny buttons, the batons swirling, and the flags waving.
As I grew older, I began to notice the drinking , the chants and the imagery and more irritatingly, the litter strewn streets afterward. Birthday parties were either family only or held weeks before or after the date because many people 'got away outta Belfast' over the twelfth. Later, memories of the day include a row of Apprentice boys/men using the outside wall of our house to urinate against (Maa-meeee, they're peeing on our wall again!). Another time, I took pity on one lone marcher who came to the door asking to use the bathroom. He repaid me by not only using the facilities, but taking off his socks and washing his filthy, smelly feet in the tiniest sink you can imagine! It took hours to get rid of the smell....mmmmm good times!
Another birthday that springs to mind is my 21st, spent in New York. LoverBoy and myself were working in NJ for the summer and he had organised a night in the Marriott Hotel at the World Trade Centre, a limo to a restaurant in Little Italy (where he inadvertently and quite charmingly sprinkled parmesan on his cappucino), and a trip to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven and had never felt so cherished.
On my 25th birthday,and just a few weeks before we got married, we painted our bedroom in our little house a terracotta colour, buying enough food supplies for the day, and turning the music up to cover the sound of the marching. My pride in our labour was somewhat short lived however-having used a popular but now rightly defunct method known as 'ragrolling', in the aforementioned terracotta colour, Damian's brother commented that it was reminiscent of the 'dirty protest'. It ruined it for me quite frankly, and I don't think I've ever forgiven him completely-sorry Christopher!
By my 28th birthday, I was 5 days overdue with our first child and beautiful daughter Anna. I remember quietly hoping that she wouldn't come on the 12th July, because although we lived in America at the time,I felt sure that we would move home at some point, and I wanted for her not only a birth date of her own, but also one that didn't bring the jokes and irritating downsides of the12th . She came two days later on Bastille Day with red hair and blue eyes -vive la France!
By my 30th birthday, we had a gentleman's family -a colicky boy and an active toddler and I certainly don't remember much time for introspection and lamentations of time passing- this emotional rollercoaster I find myself on as I face the big 4-0 squarely in the eye! I got a beautiful ring for that birthday, designed by LoverBoy -a ruby (my birthstone) and a diamond on either side for each child. (Sidenote- by my reckoning I should be upgrading to a 5 stone diamond ring any time now-I mean the extra 3 boys we now have should also be immortalised in diamond surely!?..just saying..)
So I was in my early thirties till I was thirty-five, mid thirties till 39, late thirties just this last year and eking out my last few hours as a thirty anything just about now. Logically, I don't know what I expect will happen-a few trailblazing friends are there already and are every bit as fabulous as before. I'm embracing the cliches-40 is the new thirty, Life begins at 40-blah blah blah, but I suppose I just have to make it there, take a deep breath and realise life goes on if you're lucky, and some day hopefully I'll look back and think that forty was so young and why did I have an issue with it?? It's all about where you're standing...
Also, as a sweetener, I've just received a killer new designer handbag which arrived this afternoon (Thank you Glenavy girlies!!)-a definite bonus and my mood is lifting already!
So I plan on spending the twelfth day with LoverBoy and our 5 beautiful children and going to a good friends' house for a barbeque and a few chilled glasses of wine in the evening. I decided to have a 40th party-('Do not go gentle into that dark night') but that will obviously be in a few weeks after everyone gets back their holidays -some things never change! ...Lots of love, Emma aka Orange Lil