Here I sit, almost three months into my 47th year. When did that happen? I do not feel 47. Let me rephrase that, I do not feel like what I think 47 should feel like. I remember being much younger and thinking that the age I am now, was impossibly old. I am not impossibly old. Not yet. If nature works in my favor and I steer clear of all disasters, both natural and man made, then I hope to live to be impossibly old. In fact, I embrace it. Let's face it, growing old is better than the alternative of not getting to grow old. Right? I say this flippantly, but I have a few friends and a couple of family members who never made it to the ripe old age of 47. I seriously consider myself lucky.
I think back on milestone birthdays - the obvious, 18, 21, 29, 40....and here I sit tonight, closer to 50 than 40. When I turned eighteen, I was living in Boca Raton, Florida and a senior in high school. I had been in Florida for a little over 2 years from Kansas City. Eighteen was the legal drinking age at the time. I think that eighteen is way too young to start a drinking career, but then again, some people start earlier. Funny, as anxious as I was to legally drink, we never really did too much crazy drinking. I think we had good intentions of being bad, but never really took it too far. At least I do not remember anything too nutty happening, which might not be a good indicator. I remember my boyfriend, Bobby Spada, my very first love. He was a sweet, loving guy with a tender heart and a big....wait for it...mouth. Yep, he was a loud guy. He had to be loud to be heard in his family. He came from a big Italian family, who were the loudest people I had ever met. Typical family dinners went from friendly conversation to slinging insults, crying, and screaming (oh the screaming), back to everyone happy by the time the dolci and espressos were served. I did not speak much when visiting these people. They intimidated me, and that takes a lot. I am not shy, but you would have thought I was petrified of olive oil and garlic when I was at Bobby's house. Having said all that, those people were wonderful. They were a study of character and passion. That house was filled with love and marvelous food that I can't do justice to in this blog. Momma Spada inspired me with her cooking. She made a tremendous impression on me, and I find that when I am at an Italian restaurant, I still judge the food against hers. She always wins. Now that I have visited Italy a couple of times, the Spada family make perfect sense. Italy is loud, crazy, passionate and beautiful. That was Bobby. Somehow I always knew that he was not meant to be my forever love, although a part of my heart will love him forever. Eighteen was also when I spread my wings and left for college. I discovered life outside of my parent's home. I went to University of Kansas (so very far away for the beach) and begin my college career. Funny, after a couple of months at school, I missed my family so much that I convinced my dad to fly me home for a long weekend. I needed the beach and my Florida friends. I was going to talk to him about finishing the semester and then packing up and coming back to Florida. Interesting, once I got home, I couldn't wait to get back to little Lawrence, Kansas. It seems that all it took was a little visit home to realize that it was my time to fly, to survive (with my parent's funds and support) on my own. I guess that eighteen was indeed that right of passage year we all are supposed to have. When I look back on that eventful year, I picture myself looking a lot like Molly Ringwald from Breakfast Club, which of course I didn't (curly hair in humid southern Florida - come on), but that movie soundtrack sure works for that juncture in my life.
Well, thirty was a doozy. I got a tattoo. That's right. A horrible tattoo, that I designed and can blame no one else for (except the horrible application by Tattoo Shane). It was a sunshine with a funky little swirl in the middle, just awful. I loved it. I dressed just to display that thing. It was the dead of winter, but I would stroll in wearing a tank top, tattoo blazing on my shoulder. Yes, I was cool, or so I thought. I was working at a nifty little design firm that specialized in restaurants and I was loving life. I was surrounded by creative and fun people, involved in great projects, and going out almost every night. The Stein Club was my favorite haunt and always where we kicked off the evening, as well as ended it. I remember this time of my life fondly because I was responsible, but yet still had no real worries. I partied, but still made it to work. I paid my bills most of the time. God bless my sweet father, for he still would still come to my rescue when I needed a little extra money, or bailing out of a sticky situation. The man should be knighted because through the years he has ridden in and saved my dumb ass. He has gone beyond the call of duty for a father. I only hope I can repay him for that support, but I digress... It was my thirtieth year I got bit by a rabid cat. Yep, I had to go through six weeks of rabies shots. Thankfully they do not shoot you in the stomach anymore. I was really freaking out before my first series of shots. The injections were painful and caused my muscles to stiffen up for a few days, which was bad, but something I gladly accepted over the dreaded belly shots. Shortly after the rabies incident, I bought my first house. It was a great 1930's bungalow in Decatur, Georgia. Again, thank you Dad for helping make that happen. There were some good times in that house and sad times too. I had to break up with someone I loved very much because there was just no future in the relationship. It was my first painfully real, adult break-up. I was crazy about this guy. He was, and remains to this day, one of the funniest and most creative people I have ever known. Sadly we went from passionate to platonic and could never get the magic back. So, I walked away, which hurt, but was the right thing to do. Of course, dummy me walked right into another relationship, but that is another story for another time.
This brings me to 41. Yes, 41. It is not a typical milestone year, but it is the year that forever changed my life. I had been dating a really cool guy . I broke a lot of my own rules when I started seeing him. First off, he was an architect. I had been working with architects for many years, and I just did not date them. There is something you should know about the person who chooses a career in architecture...their job is what defines them. You will always fight to be the priority over their current project. As long as you know this going into the relationship, you might be alright. Anyhow, this architect and I clicked. I feel knee deep in love. We laughed, we traveled, we discussed the future. He proposed. I accepted. We started planning the wedding and a couple months later, we discover we were pregnant. Honestly I thought that this would not happen for me. It did and I was overjoyed. So many heady, wonderful milestones in a short span - falling in love, engagement, a surprise pregnancy, and a wedding. My 41st year was filled with such happiness and wonder, and it blended right into 42, which topped 41. We ushered in a healthy baby boy, who is the light of my life. Funny how making a baby with someone makes you love that person even more. When I fell in love with Tim, I did not think I could possibly love him anymore than I did. I flipped, head over heels. Just after Dominick was born, I was watching my husband holding our new bundle and rocking him in the hospital suite. I fell in love with him again, only this time, my heart expanded even more (isn't it weird how hearts are elastic, but still can break?). I was so happy that this was the man who made a miracle with me. Of course, I was on major drugs thanks to an emergency C-section, and who knows what I was really feeling. I kid, of course, and I will remember that moment forever.
Life, at 47 is damn good...even with the crappy economy, the devastation of Alzheimer's disease with my mother, Dad's illness, my grumpy husband, my painful joints, and a long list of other complaints. I am looking forward to 50. Why? Well, Dominick will be 8, and I bet he will be a cool kid. That is something. My sister might (if you are reading this, this is a BIG hint) have made me an aunt. Also, a new business endeavor for the Vaccaro family could be up and running at that point. Exciting days ahead.
Spring in beautiful here in the south ya'all!
Jenn - V