It feels really good to finally be eighty, flat-out 100% eighty, and not “almost eighty,” as I have been claiming for a while. It’s a lovely number, isn’t it? Round and balanced and substantial. I like it. And the weekend of partying was right up there on the scale of pinnacle lifetime experiences.
Our daughter Johanna flew in from her long-time home in Italy, with a recipe list and an agenda: “Mama, I’m doing the cooking. Get over it.” Her pinnacle product was the birthday cake, one for each of the two days: Google “Russian Honey Cake” if you want a picture, but here’s the Cliff-notes: caramelized honey, butter, eggs, whipped cream, all in many many layers between 9-inch disks of batter pre-baked into a cross between a cookie and a crepe. She arrived on Tuesday, shopped with me on Wednesday, cooked all day Thursday and all day Friday, and staged it all into completion on Saturday and Sunday. More than forty people came over the two days.
I loved the little eddies of conversation amongst people who hadn’t known each other before, the intense tide-pools of conversations that hit a strong bond, and all the ebbs and flows in between. When I was a kid, I loved snoozing on the couch just outside the rooms where the grownups were talking: I was safe, nobody was paying any attention to me, and their voices blended into a lovely music. Here, I could swim among the tide pools, be an intense focus in one place and then just hang on the shore and listen to the music. This was a special occasion, and I was in bliss.
The essential binding element to this was Conrad, our son and daughter (Eli and Johanna), and our friend Flora Coker—she has been a beloved artist/colleague/friend since 1966: she knew both kids since they were a glint in the eye. She spent the weekend with us here, and gave Jo a lot of support, and reminded us how long and lovely a trip this has been.
Now I have a bale of beautiful cards, and the skin-memory of lots of hugs, and a full tank of energy for launching back in the memoir that had to take a week off. And it has been beautifully bordered with the visit of a long-time close friend from New York who flew in to say a warm hello. I spent all day Monday taking him to our special places along the Sonoma Coast and down into the magic land of Bolinas, and it was a gift to me to share what I love with someone I love.