Monthly Archives: April 2010

Many Happy Returns


I first heard this British expression for “Happy Birthday” in 1960, upon turning 12, in London’s answer to FAO Schwartz, Hamley’s, while being bought a life-sized [plush-toy] parrot, who is still with me. Two months into our English sojourn, I was stuck in my homesick-for-the-States phase; and my two associations to the shop assistant’s remark were: “Yankee, go home,” and “Keep your receipt, in case you want to bring the toy back.”

This Sunday was both Lili’s and my husband Chris’ birthday. [I am authorized to say that Lili turned 6.] It was, indeed, a happy day, except for my having so recently returned from a California visit to the “other daughters” [and therefore missing them all the more], and our having lost both phone & Internet connectivity, so the birthday boy & girl could not receive “Many happy returns of the day” messages from their Loved Ones. Normal service returned by the evening, though; and greetings were duly exchanged.

How sentimental we humans are about observing the anniversary of our birth! A young & trendy BBC 1 presenter was offering to send [by ground post] Birthday cards, on behalf of stranded Brits in the States [whom she dubbed VAVs: Volcanic Ash Victims] to their sweethearts back in Blighty. Not enough, apparently, just to pass on a “shout out” over the airwaves. A timely, mailed & received, piece of festive stationery was required. We’re just as soppy over here. No less than 5 times during one fair-to-middling meal at a “family-style” Italian restaurant in oh-so-cool LA, my girls & I were “strongly encouraged” by the management to sing a song of Birthday greetings to total strangers at other tables. In the spirit of Casablanca, we stalwartly demurred [although we didn’t bust loose with The Marseillaise in counterpoint, either].

Here’s my point. Lili the dog [who is blissfully unaware of the AKC registration of her date of birth] probably had a happier day [sans cards, calls & cake], than her human owners, because all she expected [and received] was her food, her walk-in-the-woods and our love. She avoided all the potential for humiliation that custom & Hallmark imposes on the rest of us: “You’re nobody til somebody fetes you…in a timely manner, on the very date of your birth.” That was the entire plot of Sixteen Candles, remember?

My own birthday often falls on Labor Day weekend, which is Highly Inconvenient, if one has just had one’s purse snatched and all one’s friends who could have lent one money are out-of-town [which happened twice in NYC in the 70s]. So, I have a lower bar than many for what I consider a Good Enough Birthday: something to eat, the liberty to walk about outside, and the knowledge that my Loved Ones wish me well, wherever they might be.

Although, I must say, that 40th in Vienna was pretty swell…

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Filed under attribution theory, semiotics

Slip Slidin’ Away


“You know the nearer your destination the more you’re slip slidin’ away,” said the Bard of New York, Paul Simon. I first heard the song on my car radio in 1978, driving out of Gate 8 of the Naval Academy, having just paid off my [for those times] staggering grad school loan debt, feeling a great sense of relief and accomplishment…only to realize that I, like the woman in the song, was still “think(ing) of things that might have been.” I advise against dwelling on the road(s) not taken, since, as the song says, it is highly correlated with having a “bad day.”

This morning’s woodland adventure featured the more literal form of slip slidin’ away, since it had bucketed rain last night, and I had chosen the least non-slip of my 3 pairs of Wellington boots. I was reminded of a walk two years ago, just before flying off to Detroit [long story] to take the California Board of Psychology licensing exam, and thinking, “Boy, this would be a highly inconvenient day to take a serious tumble in these unfrequented woods.” Didn’t fall, made the flight, passed the test, got the license, still no nearer the destination of living on the Other Coast. This afternoon, I am flying Over There, to see not one but two daughters [since the Chicago-based one is moving to San Francisco this summer]; and the same thought occurred to me, in a particularly steep & muddy patch of the path: “What if I fall down [and brake my crown, with Lili tumbling after]?”

See, this is a Locus of Control meditation. To what degree are we destined to fall, move West, have kids, join the Navy? [You know, whatever.] My own limbic system is pre-set to fear that I will take the “wrong” road, get lost, wind up at a deadend. So, I often choose to believe that I have no choice [to cut down on all that anger-mediated-cortisol, nar’mean?]. The price I pay, though, is to endure the intrusion of An External Plan-Maker’s Agenda on me. What am I, Fate’s plaything? [Oops! Cortisol.]

Got to dash, now [Southwest and tide wait for no person, as it were]; but ponder a bit on the next Big Fork in the Road you’re facing, and notice whether you attempt to shift the onus of the decision onto Someone Else. [You car’s SatNav, your horoscope, the I Ching, what your Loved Ones really want you to do without actually telling you point blank…]

Incidentally, this picture was taken on the first day after the big snow melted, and doesn’t really look like the inches of oozing mud we slogged through today. “But what was I to do? It was the only picture I had with any mud in it.” [She said, externalizing the locus of control again…]

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Filed under limbic system, locus of control