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Notes on My 64th Birthday
The view from my life's Inspiration Point.
It’s the remarkable people I’ve known who make my life feel so satisfying. I still don’t know myself very well: I feel like a blur who loves all these vivid characters. Those who have passed are still so sharp to me. Who taught me how to do my times tables while also teaching me about revolution. Who told me her life was uninteresting so why should she write about herself, while to me she was endlessly fascinating. Who escaped a pickpocket’s life in the Old Country but then kept stealing my nose. Who lay on the guest cot in my bedroom on Saturday nights, with a pile of my “Peanuts” comic books next to him, talking to me about Martin Buber while procrastinating on writing his Sunday sermon. Who lectured me on healthy eating while ordering us both a chocolate éclair. Who carefully schooled me on the rules of editing, described how listening over and over to Elvis Costello’s Get Happy!! album got him through writing his master’s thesis, and instilled in me a reverence for the Texas Observer. Who cried with me on the night John Lennon was killed, kept saying “Why? Why? Why?,” then got out her frying pan and cooked us up a bunch of high-fat dairy products.
I’m a lousy swimmer, but I float in a sea of glorious humanity. I appreciate, I adore, I wonder at the transcendent qualities of so many who are, too often, just trying to get through the day without feeling terrible about themselves. I hope they — you — take at least a moment to do some self-celebrating today. That would be the loveliest birthday gift to me. I’ll join you.