The Sacrament of Birthday

Yesterday was my twenty-first birthday. At midnight Jackie and Renée came shuffling into our room singing, with a cake and lighters, because they’d forgotten to get candles. The four of us ate the cupcakes, and put on the little plastic rings that had come with them. I read them my Dad’s birthday poem and opened the package from home that had been on the top shelf of my closet for three weeks. There was jewelry and chocolate and a teabag-rester and a book on E.B. White, in which my mom had written “For Alice’s Web.”

Then that morning I got up at seven-thirty so that Sarah could braid my hair. She was listening to a contemporary piece for music history class, but then it ended, and I sat in silence in the dim light as her fingers neatly shifted my hair back and forth over and under itself. I thought of school mornings growing up, sitting at the breakfast table, gulping my milk, while my mother performed the same task. But it was not quiet then.

In Classical Ed, after a few false starts, they sang happy birthday to me and I didn’t know where to look. We had plans to hike and bring along champagne to celebrate. But that fell through so Sarah Bryan and Megan Rossi kindly walked Pinchalong with me. On the way back down Pine Street the rain and wind swelled up out of the ground, it seemed, and we were wrapped and lifted in it. Our eye makeup ran and we laughed.

The three of us went to Elephant and Castle for dinner. We had hot food and I had spiced cider with a bit of rum. We talked and remembered and I was grateful. When we got back on campus I borrowed Megan’s hair dryer, took a hot shower, and blew my hair out. I put on my third outfit of the day and was warm.

Then all us Classical Ed kids went bowling and Dr. Edwards and RJ came too. I bowled one spare and a lot of zeros and we ate leftover cupcakes. We sat close together and laughed, hands on one another’s shoulders and knees, and I made everyone take a picture at the end. They called me birthday girl.

And at the last Sarah and Jackie and Renée, my girls, took me out to Rachel’s. I had whisky and wine and peanut butter pie, which was tall and creamy. We stayed a while and sat. Then Jackie, the baby of the group, drove us back through the dark. I slept heavily till about five this morning and fitfully after that. Finally I got up, and listened to part of the morning prayers online, and then sat in silence with the softly greying sky.

My grandparents are ill and are suddenly in the hospital and I am frightened, but the sun rose this morning. The Son rose.

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