On Thursday night, I picked up my daughter from school after a rehearsal for the upcoming musical. These days, if I'm not working, I'm either dropping her off at a rehearsal or picking her up. "It's been a pleasure to serve you," I always say as she hops out of the car. I can't tell if her eyes are rolling back in her head as she turns away, but I imagine they are.

As I waited for her to come out of the building on Thursday, I sat in the "no parking, no waiting" pick-up zone with all of the other law-abiding parents. I listened to a podcast about the DC Sniper and scrolled through the news app on my phone. I saw the theater kids and musicians start to trickle out of the building. We've had quite a bit of snow lately and I watched as a few of them slid down the sloped sidewalk as they headed toward the parking lot, some of them clutching each other's sleeves as they fought to stay upright. All it took was one gleeful kid grabbing a handful of snow and hurling it a castmate and it was game on. Soon, half a dozen students were lobbing snowballs at each other. My daughter came out of the building and joined the battle. It was open season as even she and her boyfriend threw handfuls of wet snow at each other.

It was after 8:30 p.m. by this time and I really wanted to go home. I had to get up early the next day and I was just done with Thursday by that point. I rolled down the passenger's side window and started to call out to my daughter, but then I changed my mind and rolled it back up. The kids have been working so hard on this musical and they are in the home stretch now. I watched them shrieking and flinging snow at each other, laughing and shouting goofy threats into the chilly night air. I wished I could scoop them all up and let them stay that way forever. Some of them are headed off to college next year and they'll find out soon enough how much groceries cost and how the world is pretty great and pretty awful all at the same time.

My daughter finally noticed I was there and gathered her belongings. Her boyfriend leaned down and gave her a quick kiss. She hopped into the car and flung her bag onto the floor. "Hi Mom," she said, her voice still full of the laughter from the snowball fight. "My butt is wet!" she exclaimed, explaining how she had fallen in the snow. Her cheeks were flushed and her curls were extra wild, it seemed.

Ah, youth.

Age is on my mind because I'm about to turn (*gasp!*) 50. For starters, I should probably apologize to my beloved sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Crawford. She was my all-time favorite teacher. When I was in her class, I thought poor Mrs. Crawford was, like, a senior citizen. You know how it is when you're a kid - you think 30-year-olds are collecting social security. Later, as an adult, I realized that Mrs. Crawford was around 51-52 when I was in her class. Not much older than I am now. Dang. I'm sorry, Mrs. Crawford!

I knew I wanted to spend my 50th birthday with my sisters. I've seen both of them within the last  year, but it's been over six years since the three of us were in the same room. We batted around a few ideas. Vegas? Texas? I decided that I'd really just like to go to Orlando. Sure, I've been several times before but honestly, I'm just a big kid at heart and I have an unapologetic love for Disney. So, that is where we are going. On my actual birthday (Valentine's Day) we will be at Hollywood Studios riding my favorite ride, Tower of Terror. We're also spending a day at Universal Studios. I can't wait!

My youngest sister is worried that her kids will be upset if they find out she's going to Disney/Universal without them. So, she is telling the kids that she is going to Williamsburg. If you happen to talk to one of my nephews, you'll need to back us up on this story. Where are we going? "Williamsburg." I told my sister that she should have given the boys a location even more boring than Williamsburg, like say we are going to tour a Penicillin factory or something. My sister pictured herself telling the boys, "That crazy Aunt Claudia! If that's what she wants to do, that's what we'll do."

As I near the half-century mark, I feel like I should probably reflect on how things are going so far. Physically, I am a bit of a mess. I have chronic, daily pain (and no, I don't want to take CBD oil, but thanks for asking) thanks to trochanteric bursitis.  I have a prescription for an anti-inflammatory but I know I can't take it forever.  My health is probably "okay" in general, though of course I need to lose some weight. I've been saying that for a few decades now, but hope springs eternal, I guess.

There is a line from The Handmaid's Tale (book) that has stayed with me since I first read it in college. Offred reminisces about her old life and thinks: “We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”

I've always tried to remind myself that these might be the very best days of my life. I may look back on the present time someday and think, "Wow, that was amazing." It's a bit trite to say it, I know, but no one knows what lies ahead. After all, I'm a pretty fortunate soul. I have a great job that I actually enjoy. At my last few jobs, I liked my clients and I liked my co-workers (generally), but not the companies or the culture. I almost feel guilty about how much I like my job now. Maybe I thought suffering was a requirement.

My husband and I have been together for almost 28 years now. That's a long time to hang out with the same person and I think there's a lot to be said for making it work. I have a loving extended family and lots of great friends. My bestie from sixth grade is still my bestie. I love my church and enjoy being part of that faith community. I now have two decades of rescue work under my belt. I wish I had logged all of my foster animals and kept better track. I know it's a large number and I'm proud that I was able to help all of those dogs, guinea pigs, and hamsters on their journey. 

One of my jobs at work is to write a website bio for each new employee who comes aboard. It's one of my favorite things to do. The feedback I often get is, "Wow, you made me sound a lot cooler than I really am!"

One of the questions I often ask when interviewing new employees (to gain bio material) is, "What are you most proud of?" I tell them that it can be something personal or work related. Parents will almost always say, "My children."

I am no different. I know that my parenting skills are often lacking and surely I make plenty of mistakes, but raising a child truly is my proudest accomplishment. Since the day my daughter was born, I've never stopped feeling like the luckiest mom in the world. My daughter is smart, funny, and kind. I can't take credit for her beauty (or those curls!) or her musical talent, but I like to think I influenced the parts of her that make other people happy to be around her.

My old-lady hips are starting to hurt now so I'll wrap this up.

I wish I had some sage advice to pass on to the youngsters, but I really don't have any. Kids, what I can tell you for sure is . . . our music was definitely better than yours.

Thanks to my cousin Doug for taking the time to scan old photos and post them to Facebook! 


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