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JANICE WELLS: On turning 70

Janice Wells writes, “Here I am now, at the only milestone birthday that has ever disturbed me.”
Janice Wells writes, “Here I am now, at the only milestone birthday that has ever disturbed me.” - 123RF Stock Photo

If you’re reading this on Saturday, Dec. 22, happy birthday to me.

I have never wanted any fuss on my birthday. Daughter # 2 was born on Dec. 18, so who had time to celebrate yet another birthday before the most celebrated birthday of all?

Baby Sister and Janine always made sure I didn’t get to ignore it altogether, but aside from a milestone or two, I’ve enjoyed quiet evenings spent at home with a few family and friends dropping by. Because only one of my three closest friends have ever lived close by, it makes for a small group. I joke to Janine about having a party and inviting all my friend. Ha ha.

So here I am now, at the only milestone birthday that has ever disturbed me. Janine takes offence when anyone implies that getting old is not a good thing. She goes on about age meaning nothing, and the wisdom of years and all that stuff. She actually gets annoyed if you think being told you don’t look your age is a compliment.

If I can’t quite get my head around turning 70 that’s my business. If I was hit by a car, the news report would say “an elderly woman  …” I mean, really?

Janine gets on my nerves. If I can’t quite get my head around turning 70 that’s my business. If I was hit by a car, the news report would say “an elderly woman  …” I mean, really?

Baby Sister is a whole other kettle of fish. She loves her birthday. Dare I say she is high birthday maintenance? In recent years her birthday celebrations have included trips to exotic places, spa pampering, lunches, fine dining, family dining and parties. All except the trips occurring within one week which has come to be known as her birthday week.

She started asking me in September what I wanted to do to celebrate turning 70. Sweet gentle adorable. Nothing more than any other year was my sentiment. Ha. With her and Daughters on the case there was no hope of avoiding a “do” of something more than a few drinks in front of the fire.

I love doing that. Last night, Daughter # 2’s birthday, I cooked her favourite food and as we waited for Baby Sister to arrive, I sat back in front of the fire, tree lights and candles glowing, basking in the contentment of having my little family all together; my two daughters, son-in-law, two grandchildren, Connor the cat and Sam the dog, and Newman only a clink away in his lair.

Hark there’s a noise outside the front door! No it’s not mummers, not 20 or more, but my — face did light up with a grin. It was Baby Sister with Big Sister from Toronto in tow. Nobody ever flew anywhere for my birthday before. I got teary. Suddenly Daughter#2’s birthday turned into the start of my four-day birthday celebrations. By the time you read this I’ll be pedicured and coiffed and wined and dined, laughed, done the dance of joy countless times and not finished partying.

So, here’s the thing, my big revelation about how I’m going to embrace being 70; I am going to give up thinking about what people think of me. I will take inspiration from Jenny Joseph’s poem, “When I am Old.” I’ve had a copy of it framed for more than 20 years so I must have liked it for a reason. If you don’t know it, Google it, and then maybe you will think of me as eccentric rather than odd.

Here is how I am going to start: on my birthday I am going to wear something totally unsuitable, a flowing white gauzy thing, embroidered with silver and turquoise beads that I fell in love with in Mexico. The tags are still on it because I have never had the occasion to wear it. I was thinking I probably never would, so I not-so-jokingly started calling it my shroud and instructed Daughters accordingly.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I will get a spot on it but the 70-year-old me is not going to worry about it.

And I am not going to explain why I am wearing it. It’s time I stopped that foolishness.

I am coming out as an eccentric.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca

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