Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Juventud, divino tesoro



I turned 49 yesterday. Perhaps that accounted for my feistier than usual tone on the blog. I wasn’t upset to be turning 49. On the contrary, I woke up elated and full of it. I didn’t expect that, can’t explain, and feel the same way today. How you feel about different ages and stages of life isn’t subject to conscious manipulation. At least it hasn’t been for me.

A short, personal story.

The night before I turned 47, I was flying home from New York with Isabel when out of nowhere came a wave of dread unlike anything I’d experienced before. Window seat. Crushed slice of Milk Bar crack pie in my pocket. Unflattering vintage red coat. I had a premonition that I was heading into a very rough period. The next morning I lay in bed and basically couldn’t get up. It was as if a switch flipped on my 47th birthday and just like that I was lost in a dark wood. 

I didn’t expect it, can’t explain. Somehow I’d thought midlife crises only happened to men and involved sports cars. 

It was a terrible time. I went to visit my grandmother a few weeks into this period and was so down and desperate that I tried to explain my feelings to her, though she was frail and 101 and I didn't expect her to have anything to tell me. I just needed to tell her, because she was the closest thing I had to a mother. She sat across the kitchen table and as I talked I watched her eyes light up. No one brought problems to her anymore, no one asked her for help, and here I was laying out a real, live problem. She proceeded to quote from memory the opening lines from a Ruben Dario poem about melancholy and the fleetingess of youth, one that had spoken to her during her own midlife confusion. I thought maybe she was hallucinating (so condescending) and looked it up on my phone. She had the words all right, it was a real poem. I had never once heard my grandmother quote poetry or say the words “Ruben Dario.” She had a lot to tell me that night, but the most valuable message I took was that she had been there, that maybe Ruben Dario had been there, that I was not alone. I guess that’s why I’m writing this post.

It wasn’t quick or easy, pulling out of those woods, but at 49, I’m really, really out. Sad, hard, surprising things will happen in the years to come and who knows how I’ll handle any of them, but there will not be another shocking midlife crisis. For me, facing up to the inevitability of those things was the midlife crisis.   

Mark offered to take me out to dinner for my birthday yesterday and I thought about it, because that’s what you’re supposed to want on your birthday, to go out. But I really wanted to stay in. I made Marcella Hazan’s spaghetti with tomato and butter sauceone of my all-time favorite dishes, and we ate on the sofa while watching The Walking Dead. I looked forward to this all day, getting that bowl of pasta and sitting on my corner of the blue sofa. Owen, Mark and I have seen  every episode of that dark show and I love watching TV with those two and eating dinner on the sofa. I’m not even going to make a joke about how lame that is, because I’m 49. No more self-deprecating apologies for my tastes.

For cake, I baked Mimi Thorisson’s pear flognarde, which is like a clafoutis. Or, as Thorisson puts it in A Kitchen in France: “like a big pancake filled with melt-in-your-mouth pears. . . In the old Occitan language flognarde means ‘soft’ and it can refer to a duvet, so you can just imagine how a bite of this feels in your mouth -- as light as a feather.”

Well, not quite that light, but pretty light and really delicious. Mark described the dessert as “inconvenient” because the pears are cut in quarters and didn’t meld well with the custardy cake. I agree. I think this would be better if the pears were chopped, but I liked the cake, like Thorisson’s book, and like being 49. 

46 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday! Dinner and TV is not lame! Getting a free ticket to sit and indulge in comfort food and comfort TV is such a good feeling, what with increase in recommended daily dinner-table-eating, face-to-face-conversing, and unplugging. (Also, our birthdays are three days apart, mine is the 27th).

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    1. It was nice, really nice.

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    2. A very happy birthday, Jennifer. I made the spaghetti with tomato and butter sauce. WOW! What a wonderful surprise!

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  2. Well, happy birthday to you. I'll be 53 this year, and have been coping (I guess I can call it that) with a big ol' honkin' midlife crisis for a bit now, and I'm glad for you that yours is over. Gives me some hope. I do like your blog. Except I cannot figure out if it's searchable. If it's not, well, that's a (not insupportable) flaw. If it is, I sure would like to know the secret. I wish you a very fulfilling fiftieth year of life.

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    1. I don't know if my blog is searchable -- I will find out. I am sorry about your midlife crisis! I hope I didn't sound super-smug because it's not like I have life by the tail, or anything. It's just that the things that were haunting me that whole year, the things I found hard to accept, I have now accepted. I think it's different for everyone.

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    2. Just search using Google with a site restriction. For instance, to search the site for "midlife," simply enter this as your Google search:

      midlife site:www.tipsybaker.com

      There are other ways to do this using Google, but it's the simplest one for me to remember. Plus, you can use this kind of search for any site on the web.

      Cheers!

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    3. Also, no, by no means do you sound smug. It must be such a relief. And it is exactly that, the problem of acceptance. I resist. Very un-Zen of me.

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  3. A very happy birthday to you! Here's a little present to you from Mimi Thorissen: http://mimithorisson.com/2015/02/26/my-funny-valentine-the-meaning-of-life/

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    1. Thank you! On the present, yikes. I effing hate the internet.

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    2. Really, this whole thing has gotten quite out of hand. Mimi's response is thoughtful and measured, as is her whole blog, and that's fine. It's also clear she's been stung by the Piglet review, but she has legions of fans (200+ at last look) uniformly assuring her how marvelous she is in the comments following her post in response to it, and I can't help feeling that perhaps a different perspective is not so bad. This also makes me wonder if in fact she's been insulated by all this adoration, so that she's unaccustomed to any feedback that isn't absolutely glowing.

      Tipsy, I hope you have not taken all of this to heart in a way that will squelch your candor and honesty. What's more, you clearly gave her the benefit of the doubt, despite your initial impressions, and came away feeling empathy and respect for her. I hope she bothered to read the posts you wrote to that effect.

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  4. happy birthday!!! thank you so much for sharing this. i'm 27 and my boyfriend is 29 and one of our favorite things to do together is to stay in and watch the walking dead while eating on the couch (and we have made marcella hazan's spaghetti with tomato and butter sauce too many times to count. it's so reliably excellent). we also both love reading your blog and learning about food and hearing about your family. it feels kind of like finding a present when i check the rss feed and see a new post there. it's a real delight.

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  5. Happy birthday!! Thank you for gifting us consistently with your writing and heartfelt reflections on life. I truly appreciate them, and hope you keep on publishing. Thank you especially for this post, as I'm sure many people can relate to have "been there" as Rubin Dario expressed.

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  6. Happy birthday! I'm glad it was a satisfying one and that you did exactly what you wanted.

    The more I read Darío the more I enjoy his writing. I think it's the current of violence and shock that runs through his disarmingly beautiful verses. Thanks for making me think about his writing some more, and thank you for your own evocative, lovely, surprising writing.

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I had to delete my comment because I made a mistake and I was too prideful to let it remain. Here it is for real.

      Many happy returns! Thank you for your grace and pragmatism. Your reflections regarding your midlife crisis are going to come in handy for me, thank you for that as well.

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  8. That picture of you and your grandmother is so beautiful. I hold your description of her with a red sash around her robe and earrings as a symbol of what I hope I can do in my last years. What a woman. Happy birthday.

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  9. Happy Birthday! Your celebration sounds perfect to me. Glad you weathered the midlife crisis. Getting older ain't for sissies, is it?

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  10. So glad you are safely out of your dark wood. Enjoy the light more knowing it flickers from time to time. And thanks for introducing me to Pasta with Tomato and Butter. I can't think of a better birthday treat for you. XOH

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  11. I was sick on my birthday a couple years ago, so we ordered takeout (from a restaurant I normally consider too expensive for takeout) and watched a movie I had loved as a kid. I have fonder, more vivid memories of that night than any number of restaurant birthday celebrations. I hope your birthday evening will be a great memory for you too!

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  12. Happy birthday, and thank you for this post. I've had a year or so of not really coping very well at all with the passing of time. I'm looking forward to being out of the dark wood, myself. Your blog helps.

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  13. Happy birthday! I always love your stories about your grandmother; what a wise woman. I turned 50 this year and didn't think it would faze me; for some reason, I spent the second half of my 40s thinking of myself as "practically 50," as in, "Dad, would you stop telling me what to do, I'm practically 50." Even so, it was a bit of a shock to actually hit the number. But I find that I like being this age, having friends I've known for 40 years, a perspective at work that goes back decades. I think you'll enjoy it.

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  14. Happy birthday -- your blog brought tears to my eyes thinking of my own mother and grandmother, both now gone. And as I turn 49 myself later this year, I'll come back to this post. Thank you.

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  15. Happy Birthday! Your stories about LIFE are a treasure, for your own family as well as for all the rest of us! I hope that you continue writing--lots. You have a wondrous gift, both for your use of words themselves and the thinking supporting the m, full of good judgement and feisty humor.

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  16. Happy birthday!

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  17. Happy belated birthday, Jennifer!! Rejoice that you have another year to live, blog here with us and enjoy life. Yes, mid life is hard sometimes, but so is life, just life these days can be hard, so rejoice!!! Your biggest and quietest fan!

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  18. Happy birthday! You're terrific, and I so enjoy reading your blog. I also appreciated your thoughts on Knausgaard; sounds dead on, though I'm still weighing whether to take the plunge. Thanks for that and everything else!

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  19. PS: Excellent profile picture too!

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  20. I loved turning 50...it's like I finally arrived. That lasted about a week, it would have been so much better if menopause hadn't caused allthat grief. I finally decided to give up the ghost of every considerable cure to dreaded hot flashes from hell and got hormone replacement therapy. The only thing that returned my sanity..... I don't know what's worse.. Periods or hot flashes.. They both suck equally.. I just can't believe how looooong it toke to finely get on the other side. I'll be 59 in couple months. Still get them once in a very long while. And I another instance I can't believe how fast nine years came and went.

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