Scenes from my birthday in San Francisco

I celebrated a birthday in what felt like grand fashion this Friday: Aron took the day off and, after hugs and kisses and hand-drawn birthday butterflies and hearts from my two favorite little people, he drove us into San Francisco for a day of favorites. Over the Golden Gate and into the fog, with ocean breezes salting our hair, we started with breakfast and cocktails at Outerlands and finished with second breakfast at Trouble Coffee. We go to all of the same little shops in the Outer Sunset every time we visit, but they’re my favorite. There’s something about that grey filtered light out there.

Some other highlights… and thoughts on getting older…

Aron often sits in the back gardens of the shops to watch the kids while I peruse. This time we got to look together, nary a “don’t touch” to be told.

I think the thick cinnamon-sugar toast at Trouble would be Aron’s in-lieu-of-cake choice if it were his birthday.

We played tourist in Chinatown and North Beach. After some Dim Sum (and some of the best Peking Duck I can remember) at the Great Eastern Restaurant, we shuffled through the stacks at City Lights.

Bouquets of sharpened pencils, brushes for watercolors, and the inky smell of the printing press at Aesthetic Union made me think that I need to take a painting class one of these days.

We got coffee and pastries from Tartine Manufactory to-go, and lingered at the Newstand before driving into the Mission for a walk up and down Valencia.

The night ended with a raw-bar feast at Bar Crudo in NoPa. If you happen to go, don’t miss the scallops. We almost did and the server was kind enough to caution us. We ended up ordering seconds.

For dessert, I went in search of ice cream. Bi-Rite had closed, and the line at Souvla for the frozen Greek yogurt was too long, so I ordered Earl Grey with Burnt brown sugar topping at Smitten. It was just right.

It was a wonderful day—and just perfect for one of those “insignificant” birthdays when you might be thinking about the year ahead. Next year is the “significant” one. I was wondering if I should be setting some goals for this year. I found an old article on the New York Times that’s quite maudlin about turning 40:

“It all seems to have passed so quickly, as if time played its sleight of hand on me by causing the years to disappear under a web of memories. In a life that is full of options, this passage of time has not been one. / But even more difficult than becoming 40 is going through this soul-searching 39th year, which teeter-totters between the bright sky of my youth and the somber curtain that will open to approaching old age. For the first time, I realize it’s too late to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. It is my daughters now whose careers are talked about.”

Ouch! And I’m happy to say that it doesn’t resonate at all. Maybe it’s that my children are still so young, maybe it’s that times have changed, maybe I’m just naive, but I definitely still feel like I’m figuring out the seasons of life. The challenge is wanting to fit too much into one season (like this one with young kids)—and then getting that paralysis of overwhelming options. That does mean reminding myself from time to time that it’s not too late to figure it all out—I don’t have to do it all right now—but mostly just when I read something like this.

I do like the idea of setting intentions, however. Not a bucket-list mind you (though I’m also happy to say that I looked up one 40-before-40 list and had done everything on it except ride a motorcycle—and I just have no interest), but I would love to celebrate my 40th birthday feeling great, feeling healthy. I have some in mind, I just need to figure out how much I want to fit in.

Do you make birthday goals? What do you think about this getting older business? Any keys to keeping the feeling of a “somber curtain” at bay? 

P.S. Birthday cake traditions and that time I celebrated a birthday in Italy. Take me back! Also, did it surprise you that it’s a man and not a woman who wrote the NYT quote above?


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