Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Birthday thoughts

It's my birthday today. I turned 29 again--several years ago, I had to call my kids' attention to the fact that I turn 29 every year, as my mother did before me. In fact, before I can turn a "Jack Benny 39," as Gotu puts it, I'll have to get my mother to agree to age another decade.

When I was 8, I got a book that made a deep impression on me--so deep, in fact, that when I wake up on my birthday every year, I think of it. It's entitled The Wishing Tree, and it's by William Faulkner (a name that meant nothing to me at the time). This is how it begins:

"She was still asleep, but she could feel herself rising up out of sleep, just like a balloon: it was like she was a goldfish in a round bowl of sleep, rising and rising through the warm waters of sleep to the top. And then she would be awake.
And so she was awake, but she didn't open her eyes at once. Instead, she lay quite still and warm in her bed, and it was like there was still another little balloon inside her, getting bigger and bigger and rising and rising. Soon it would be at her mouth, then it would pop out and juump right up against the ceiling. The little balloon inside her got bigger and bigger, making all her body and her arms and legs tingle, as if she had just eaten a piece of peppermint. What can it be? she wondered, keeping her eyes shut tight, trying to remember from yesterday.
'It's your birthday,' a voice said near her, and her eyes flew open."

It's clear to me that this book influenced me in a way that later books can't (I've said repeatedly that if you haven't read Victor Hugo by the age of 12 or 13, it's probably too late). Everything that I do today is done with the consciousness that "the good Saint Francis had said that if you are kind to helpless things, you don't need a Wishing Tree to make things come true." And even if it takes until you're in your 40's for you to get a bird, it's just as pleasant.

5 comments:

harriet M. Welsch said...

Happy Birthday! I guess it's time to add another book to my list. I wonder if I will ever catch it up.

Libby said...

happy birthday! My dad did the Jack Benny thing until his younger brother objected (since he was admitting his real age, he was now "older"). He made my dad admit he was 50 before he would give him a birthday present. You've got time before that happens, though!

Alison said...

Happy Birthday, and Many Happy Returns!

lemming said...

Happy Birthday!

I read Victor Hugo at seventeen-almost-eighteen and still liked it. Yes, I even read the unabridged version. After Brothers Karamozov I was ready for anything.

SFP said...

Happy birthday! In a few months I'll be double your age. Would that make me old enough to be your grandmother?

Must. quit. counting.