Charlotte Phillips

Turning 56 – by Charlotte

Charlotte’s christening in 1961 at St. John’s Anglican Church in Shaughnessy

The way my Mom tells it, I hung on for five minutes past midnight just to have my own birthday instead of being born on hers. At 12:05am on December 18th I made my debut there in the swank maternity ward of Vancouver’s Grace Hospital. I’m sure it was a great relief to the doctor and nurses coaxing my entrance into the world.

In 1960, ladies ‘went in’ to have babies in the manner of a weeklong spa getaway. It was apparently a different era in public healthcare budgets. My Mom soaked up the attention and relative luxury of a break from her busy life and at the end of that week she jumped right back in, with me in the mix.

Mom and Dad brought me home, bundled up on a snowy Christmas Eve and handed a live baby doll to my three older sisters. Mom always tells the story of how the very next day she cooked a turkey and served a full Christmas dinner for her family of six as though it was no big deal. I sometimes think it is family folklore and we all just believe it because it makes for a charming story.

So here I lay in my rumpled bedcovers on a snowy morning at the very beginning of my 56th year. To be correct, it really is the beginning of my 57th year, but let’s not get technical. I am watching the weather out my window as it falls from the sky in giant saucers of snow, blanketing the street and rooftops in view, and I am wondering what the next chapter of my life will bring. What unexpected event like this snowstorm on the West Coast, will shake me up and alter my plans. I have neither ended my night nor started my day as I linger in this moment, coffee in hand, laptop against bent knees, contemplating the future.

I hit a bit of a road bump in my life, four years ago. The story I had expected to just carry on in its blissful and unwavering way, took a very sharp turn and I found myself struggling to make sense of the disconnection. My narrative arc had suddenly taken a strange and unsettling dip. There were times when I wanted to just put the book down, so to speak, and start something completely different.  It seems every birthday since, and all days in-between, I have wondered about my future.

But everyday, the dog needed walking and my Mom needed care and there were so many things that stayed the same even though my whole world seemed different. I latched onto the familiar parts of my life; my friends and family, my belongings and interests, while always feeling a bit homesick for the “real me”. There is something comforting and empowering about knowing who you are to the people in your life and especially to yourself. But when a mirth-quake strikes, as I like to call my divorce, and your identity comes tumbling down, it takes a long time to feel familiar with who exactly you are.

My birthday always comes at the end of the year, nestled right up against Christmas and all its traditions and chaos. My children and family and my dear friends try hard to eek out a moment in the busiest time of the year to celebrate me. And with my Mom’s birthday the very day before mine (she just turned 94), I feel a bit bad for everyone trying to shine a little light on me.

But back to the future.  The birthday wishes I have already received today on Facebook and in emails and by phone have lifted my spirits and reminded me that I am loved. I have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to in the coming year. Everyday is a new day that brings new challenges and opportunities. Some things in my coming year will no doubt, be hard to get through, but when I look back, way back on that snowy night in 1960, I realize I’ve already come a long way. Like the lyrics in Joni Mitchell’s Christmas song, River, I too, sometimes wish I had a river I could skate away on. That song is about longing for the past, as people often do, especially at Christmas. Maybe, it’s time to skate towards something new.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Jane Manning December 21, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Another well written heart felt ” story” !
    Thanks for sharing , Charlotte!
    Hugs,
    Janey

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