Thirty-Seven Years Of Stories To Tell

On a Thursday evening in April 1976, a couple in their driveway heard their neighbors call out, “Are you having the baby?”

The husband shouted, “Yes!”, much to the excitement of the neighbors. Followed quickly by, “April Fools! No, we’re just headed to Lamaze class.” You see, their baby wasn’t due for two more weeks.

Later that same night the couple headed to their car again, this time the husband shouting to the neighbors, “We’re having the baby!”

“Yeah, right”, replied the neighbor to the father-to-be who cried April Fools.

“No, I’m serious this time!”

“Really? Congratulations! Good Luck!”

And at 3:12 am on Friday, April 2, two weeks early, I came screaming into the world. The first and last time I’ve arrived early for anything.

Many birthdays have followed.

My first birthday, when my parent’s camera broke. I like to think I was just too cute and the camera couldn’t take it. The only evidence left of that day is two hazy, hard-to-see pictures taken with old film on a camera borrowed from the neighbors.

My Sesame Street dream cake.
My Sesame Street dream cake.

The Big Bird Cake birthday. I loved this cake! My mom baked all my birthday cakes and they were always delicious, but this one…this one had Big Bird’s nest made out of malted milk balls and gum drops to hold the candles. Are you kidding me?? Unbelievable!

Young Shannon is not impressed, but she did dress to match her decorations.
Young Shannon is not impressed, but she did dress to match her decorations.

The year the weather attacked my birthday. In April in the Midwest it could have been a snowstorm or a thunderstorm. I can’t remember what delayed my party, but as you can see by my expression in the picture above, I was none too pleased.

And then there was Golf Land. The “invite your friends from school” year. I don’t know whose idea that was. It certainly wasn’t mine. And I don’t think mom was too keen on the party planning and the wrangling of other people’s kids. Dad? You’re the only one left. I’m pegging this as your idea. I saw these kids seven hours a day, five days a week already, I didn’t need to play miniature golf and drink punch with them on a Saturday afternoon. I preferred an evening of relatives, cake, and presents…and cake…and presents. Maybe a little crepe paper and a couple of balloons. Thankfully, the Golf Land experiment only had to happen once for all of us to confirm it wasn’t our cup of tea.

This past Tuesday was my 37th birthday. I was looking forward to spending it completely on my own. Time for new traditions. These days I can take or leave the cake and I don’t need any presents. I’m all about low key, so I took the day off work and decided to just relax and do all the things I love to do.

The celebration began Monday night at 5:01 pm. Nearly pulled a hammy race walking to my car after work. Should’ve stretched first. Ate dinner at Panera and read a book. Bought a chocolate chip cookie and an orange scone for my birthday pastries. Spent too long reading at Panera so by the time I got to Barnes and Noble I only had 55 minutes for my birthday book browsing extravaganza. Made it through magazines, the display tables, mysteries, history, and was right in the middle of biographies when they politely informed us all we had 5 minutes to hit the door. Made it out purchase free, a rarity for me in a bookstore. Went home and watched the 100th episode of Castle. (Thanks for coordinating that with my birthday, Castle creator, Andrew Marlowe. It was great!)

Tuesday, ate lunch at…Panera and read. Yes, twice within 24 hours. Would like to tell you I at least ordered something different, but that would be a lie. Spent the rest of the day roaming about town, responding to Facebook birthday wishes between stops. At night I read, I watched a movie, I ate my weight in ice cream. It was a lovely day.

I’ve never dreaded growing older. On the contrary. I’ve always been fascinated by all the stories those who were older than me had to tell. My grandpa could sit and tell stories for hours. I knew each one by heart, but still loved to sit and listen to him. He would sit in his chair and rock and look off in the distance as he talked about growing up, and life in the Air Force, and driving to job sites at four in the morning when he inspected highway construction. Each day you live you gather more stories to tell.

When I was little I distinctly remember looking down at my hands, waiting for the day they would look “grown up” with veins winding over the bones. Even at that age it intrigued me to think when your hands looked like that it meant you had worked hard and you had stories to tell. When the lines on your forehead deepen it means you’ve questioned, you’ve been surprised, and, yes, you’ve probably been outraged once or twice too. When you develop lines at the sides of your eyes when you smile it means you’ve smiled a lot and you’ve got stories to tell.

Well, here I am after 37 years on this planet. Only 37. I plan on many, many more birthdays, but I can tell you my hands definitely look “grown up”. And when I smile into the mirror and see the lines starting to form around my eyes, I’ve never once thought anything other than “my eyes look happy”. And I’m excited for each new day that brings a new story to tell.

6 thoughts on “Thirty-Seven Years Of Stories To Tell”

  1. The photo of unimpressed Shannon is my favorite! My hands give the impression I have done wwwaaayyy more work than I’ve actually done in my life. Tell me what ridiculously dark circles under my eyes mean!


    1. Haha! Oh, I beg to differ. Raising three great kids is hard work and your hands must show that accordingly. As for the dark circles, I definitely have those too. Hmm. Let’s go with, “Dark circles under your eyes mean you’ve led a full and productive life, jammed full of activities.” Saying I stay up too late just sounds like I don’t manage my time well. 😉


  2. How funny that you remember wanting “grown up hands with veins winding over the bones”. As a child, I distinctly remember observing women’s hands that looked like that and thinking it was so beautiful, and I wanted my hands to look that way, too. One day I happened to hear someone say a negative comment about veins showing in their hands and I was shocked…because that was beauty to me.
    Your birthday celebration sounds as if it was relaxing and filled with your favorite things. I love reading your stories. Thanks for sharing them with us.


    1. That’s exactly how I felt about it, Tesa! It’s interesting that we both remember that so distinctly. We must have both valued hard work from a young age, without realizing it. We have so much in common you’d think you and I were related! 😉 I’m glad you enjoy reading my stories. I enjoy sharing them. Thanks for commenting!


  3. In the last year I’ve been surprised to see that I suddenly have old lady hands. They surprise me because they don’t seem to match the rest of my body, and I don’t feel like an old lady on the inside, but my hands definitely look as old as I really am. Age is such a funny thing–so much more about our ideas of it than any reality.

    Your birthday sounds wonderful–glad you got so much time to read and wander. And I know just what you mean about kid birthday parties. I was a little sad to give up my family parties for friend parties when I was small.


    1. I always wonder what makes us suddenly notice these changes. The first time I noticed the lines around my eyes I thought, “Were those there yesterday??” Obviously the changes don’t happen overnight, but it seems like we all of a sudden notice them one day. 🙂


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