Recently, my son sent me a text asking what I would like for my birthday this year. I wasted no time in sending the answer: a beachfront condo on Sanibel Island, a wrinkle-free neck, skinny thighs and good eyesight. Even though I graciously told him he could select which of the gifts he would prefer to give me, I didn’t get a reply. Perhaps he was too busy comparing the costs and labor involved in each of my selections before settling on his final choice.
I remember very well how easily I used to come up with a list of things I wanted for my birthday. Like most children raised on lots of television, I always had a ready list of new toys and games I had seen advertised and that I was dying to have. Later, as a teenager and young adult, I yearned for a wardrobe full of expensive and beautiful clothes that would allow me to have whatever look was trendy at the time. Still later, as a not-so-young adult, there were always books, jewelry, a few clothes and other various household items that I would be pleased to receive, so even then the question of “what do you want for your birthday?” wasn’t hard to answer.
I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere in my journey through middle age, I just stopped wanting quite so many things. Maybe I don’t long for beautiful clothes any more because I know that those clothes probably aren’t going to look all that great on my middle-aged body. (And I’m actually okay with that: one of the benefits of aging is that I no longer feel the pressure to strive for the “perfect” appearance.) I don’t mind wearing the same few necklaces and bracelets each time I go out, and as for household items, my house is already as full as I want it to be.
I still love books, but years of diligently collecting the works of my favorite authors means that my bookshelves are basically full. I don’t want to end up like my father, who had more than sixty boxes of books that he insisted on bringing with him on each of our family’s many moves. (A family friend once commented, “By the time your dad finally gets all his books unpacked and on his shelves, it’s basically time to start packing them up again for the next move.”) I go through my books every so often, getting rid of the ones that I no longer read so that I have room for any new books I add to my collection. So far, my system is working, because I haven’t bought a new bookshelf in years.
So now, at the age of almost fifty-eight, I have a hard time coming up with a birthday wish list of things that anyone who isn’t fabulously wealthy (beachfront condos don’t come cheap) could actually buy for me. And that’s a good thing, because it means I have reached the point where I have figured out that the things that I want the most, and the things that are the most important to me, have absolutely nothing to do with money.