Saturday found me waist deep in the Pacific with a giant rock crab at my feet. The sky was sunny. The water was calm, and oh so very icy thanks to the gentle breeze floating off the snow capped Olympic Mountains, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and through my cotton t-shirt.
The mid-April dip was courtesy of my husband, who likes to lace his birthday gifts with evil.
I turned 35 this week. Age doesn’t worry me. It’s just a number: double it to get to 70; half it to return to 17.5. Most days I feel like a teenager, I may even look still look like I did back in high school… the grunge look was “in” back then.
Ordinarily, as soon as the clock strikes April, birthday gras starts. That’s at least a week, though possibly a month of celebration. This birthday was different. Blame it on a busy life, but I kept forgetting my birthday was on the horizon until it was practically on top of me. This left me with little time to plan, and perhaps mercifully only one real wish:
I wanted to go to the local bookstore, Bolens, just after it opened and wander the aisles; just me, myself and I.
My husband said he’d consider that.
On the morning of my birthday, my girls greeted me with drawings and videos to add to my DVD library of the Gilmore Girls. My husband handed me a homemade envelope containing 5 rectangles of construction paper.
One of the rectangles said I could “cash” it and escape to Bolens for the morning. The bottom of the card stated I couldn’t buy any children’s books. He knows me too well.
I spent a blissful hour and a half wandering every inch of the bookstore. Though there were about 20 fiction titles that wanted to come home with me, I couldn’t bear spending money on someone else’s dream before I realized my own, so I came out with:
- Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
- Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn
- How Bad Are Bananas? by Mike Berners-Lee
- Make the Most of Your Time on Earth by Rough Guides
- Kaspar Prince of Cats by Michael Morpurgo
It is the last title that got me into trouble.
The book looks like an adult book, but open it and you’re hit with illustrations, a big font and language I knew my five-year-old would grasp. Yes, sigh, it is a children’s book. I’m weak.
My husband immediately threw a flag on the play when I came home, and declared if I wanted my remaining gifts I would now have to complete two tasks from card #2, not one.
Card #2, the “Gilmore Card”:
The remaining seasons may be earned by performing ONE of the tasks below.
1) Run 1 lap naked of our backyard.
2) Wear Canucks jersey for 1 day.
3) Role in dirt in new front garden for 30 seconds
4) Eat 1/4 plate of Calamari
5) Run into the ocean up to your waist.
If no task is completed by April 21, Gilmore Girls is forfeited for 1 year.
Now that I had to do two tasks from this list, I seriously considered waiting the year to get seasons 6 and 7, but the thrill of my own mini Amazing Race over-road any desire to wait.
With time running out, on my April 21st deadline, I finally whittled the list to three options:
- Run 1 lap naked of our backyard – we do have a pretty private yard.
- Role in dirt in new front garden - pretty easy, and again, sort of secluded
- Run into the ocean up to waist – the ocean and I have had a love affair stretching back to when I was 11 days old and sailing upon it with my parents.
Why no Canucks or calamari? In short, both stink. The jersey isn’t to be washed until the playoff hopes are dashed, and I couldn’t wear it to tea at the Empress. (The birthday police were insistent the jersey go on at dawn and come off at midnight, no exceptions.) The calamari? BLECK. No, turning 35 didn’t change my food attitude.
So after attending Princess Tea at the Empress, which was fabulous and delicious, I decided running naked in our backyard, even under the cover of night was out. A) because the girls would be asleep and were looking forward to me doing something; and (B) I knew my husband would produce a flashlight or flare as I raced sans sonar, bashing into branches and spearing myself on the swings.
It had to be ocean and dirt.
Before we left for the beach, my husband took the garden hose and wet the garden down. ”Just prepping it for you.”
No, the card didn’t say it was going to be dry.
When we returned from Willow’s Beach, where I had come toe to shell with a Rock Crab, I was ready to slide right into the mud, wallow like a pig, then hop in the shower. My husband and Miss Q had other plans.
My husband needed to get it on video. Miss Q needed to get the garden hose. She’d been talking of nothing else since I’d ticked my boxes. ”I’m going to spray you in the face,” she’d chanted repeatedly as only a hyper-excited 5-year-old could.
My protests fell on def ears. ”Spraying with a garden hose is allowed,” my husband ruled.
Miss Q started the spray well before I was prepared. The tap water was colder than the ocean, the blasts took my breath away. I had no choice but to dive for the semi-compacted mud in hopes it was warmer. It wasn’t.
I rolled. Miss Q shrieked wickedly and sprayed. ”Watch the strawberries,” My husband called. I looked up and got a face full of water. Miss S shrieked with joy alongside her sister. I rolled and rolled. Thirty seconds is loooong.
When the madness stopped, I looked like a swamp lady, but didn’t care. These are the moments our family will remember forever, and that is a birthday gift unto itself.
My husband turns 40 in a couple of months, consider the gauntlet dropped. Happy Birthday to me.