My husband makes the best marble cake I've ever had--sweet, flavorful, dry but not too dry. Perfect with whipped cream. Breakfast with birthday cake and everybody giving me favorite things--dried papaya (which is delicious with a little goat cheese and that sweet, but not too strong Macedonian König Arthur red wine from Aldi.)
My tastes in wine are close to those of Elaine May. In A New Leaf, the most brilliant screwball comedy ever written by a woman--easily rivaling Woody Allen--she plays a character whose boyfriend is trying to impress her by wondering whether the 1955 vintage he has just ordered is better than the 1953. She takes a sip and shrugs. It's "nice," she concedes, but "have you ever tasted Mogen-David extra heavy malaga wine with soda water and lime juice?" she asks, expounding on the delights of the Mogen-David wine cooler even as he reflects on how he spent his very last dime on the expensive heliotrope that sits all but untasted in her glass. Yum. I know just what she's talking about. Sweets are still one of my favorite things. Which is why I weigh six kilos more than I did when I was young, and why part of every New Year's resolution is to lose them. But now, lose 'em or not, I'm going to get strong: ballet Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The gym Tuesdays and Saturdays. Belly dance Thursday evenings. Tap on Fridays. No osteoporosis for me!
Although I'm in a pretty good mood for me, I'm still wishing I were as wonderful a writer as Gary Shteyngart, as I gulp down his latest, a memoir called Little Failure. The title resonates, since I often think of myself as a big failure. With each passing birthday, I daydream about getting to re-do my life, rectifying all mistakes. I imagine otherworldly post-life scenarios, in one of which I die, only to wake up as some tiny toadlike creature in a basket in a market somewhere, and remember immediately how I got there. I got there by having purchased the life that I just lived, and "it was a bargain." I learn that I paid to have "some" happiness, because I couldn't afford to be happy all the time. That's for rich little toad creatures, who purchase, at ten times the sum I offered, lives that stay charmed from start to finish, including deaths that are painless. I, on the other hand, have purchased the deal that starts with the rotten childhood, makes its way through the rottoner adolescence and the miserable mid-twenties and thirties to the life beginning at forty phase, when things really start to get better. My imagination hasn't yet produced an answer to the question of how the little toad creature (some sort of a soul) acquires the currency needed to purchase a life, but I do daydream about the possibility of re-living the very same life and improving it (when I was eight I would have done this . . .when I was fourteen I would not have done that . . . had I known more about babies when my firstborn emerged I would have . . . .) as opposed to moving on to an entirely new life and forgetting the old, even moving on to an entirely new language, solar system, or gender. But each beloved person in this life reappears in a new identity in the next . . . a child might be a father, a mother a sister or daughter. Then I start to play with the idea of karma: you store up points for whatever the fates decide is doing good, or you lose them for causing harm. I think of the end of C.S.Lewis's The Last Battle, a judgement-day scenario in which Aslan glances into the faces of all creatures passing him as they leave life, sending those who have followed his rules to some glorious heaven containing everything they want, and the others off into oblivion. Or maybe you'd be reincarnated as a toad. And then a prince would kiss you. Or vice versa. These are the thought of someone determined to publish her novels and writings, perform in a few more tap dances, and generally live it up before hitting that most sobering of birthdays--sixty. I should be so lucky.