In the dictionary, Terra Firma means dry land however, in Latin it means, solid land.
In the last week, I had a birthday. I often get a bit nostalgic and well, even more than nostalgic, actually I often feel quite sad lately, for a few days before and after my birthday. Did you ever read or see the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder? There is a section of the play where the main character dies. She is allowed to go back in time to relive one day in her past. She chooses one of her birthdays. She sees her mother and father and her friends and relatives talking among themselves and talking about their planned celebration. Her ghost watches the action that is all in the past. At first, she is thrilled to see and hear the family and friends. She is fascinated with how young her parents looked at the time. Soon it becomes too emotional for her and she cries out, for the action to stop. Looking back can be too sad and too emotional for me and really, maybe, for all of us.
I try not to go back in time and I do a pretty good job of it, most of the time. I try to concentrate on the present and the future. Even when I look back at the past I am usually able to separate the past and my emotions regarding the past, however, for some reason that cool exterior breaks down much like a cookie that crumbles, around my birthday each year. You see my mother used to make a big deal about our birthdays. Once, many years ago I heard the writer Calvin Trillion on television and he was talking about his wife’s birthday. Mr. Trillion said that his wife doesn’t have a birthday. He said that she has a “birth- week”. She celebrates her birthday for an entire week. Well, that is what I used to have when I was a child. My mother would have a family birthday, with just my mother and father and sisters. I would get to choose my favorite dinner and my favorite cake that my mother would make for me. I got presents from my mom and dad and sisters. Then we would have an extended family birthday party with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. More dinner, more cake, and more presents … then last but certainly not least I would have my birthday party with my friends from school. My father, who was well known in the cake business, would decorate my cake and there was more cake and lunch and presents. We had great parties! Now everyone is gone. My grandparents and all of the aunts and uncles from the Chicago area, and my parents and my youngest sister and some of my friends are gone. So now it is a bit of a challenge to get through each birthday, but I do, and I am grateful that I am still here, alive and well.
Lately, I guess due to my “birth- week”, this week somehow makes me reevaluate my past. I consider what is happening in my present situation and lastly I try to imagine a possible future. I noticed one very interesting fact. Recently, I heard a man on television mention how happy he was to be back on terra firma… after a flood in his city. I thought how my terra is, and never has been, very firma, so to speak. I started counting (no, not calories) but homes and apartments and or condos that I have lived in from 1 year old to my 67 years on earth. I have moved 24 times. Chicago 7 moves, (I am also going to count college) 2 different rooms in my college in Iowa, 2 apartments in London and 2 apartments in Paris, 2 places in Europe (when I was first married), 8 homes and apartments in Colorado and 1 home in Arizona. That makes 24 and counting…
So looking back in time, at my life, as a Pisces, born in March, the water sign, of two slippery fish swimming in opposite directions; I can say, with conviction, that I am a very good swimmer. I can swim, float, I can swim strong and steadily avoiding sharks and danger zones, most of the time. I have had to tread water, keeping my head above water sometimes for years at a time. I did learn how to dive but I still prefer to jump in, holding my nose, with eyes closed. Now there have been times when I have had to manage my family and my life on terra (land) and sometimes I have had to avoid avalanches blocking the road and unexpected rock slides, often with one child under each arm pulling a dog and two cats behind me. The terra is definitely a challenge, moving, moving, moving, on to the future, leaving some things and some people behind. The secret is to keep going, jumping over the potholes, avoiding earthquakes, skirting around possible erupting volcanoes.
Was there help out there in the past and in the present? Golly, yes. Life preservers, floatation devises, canoes, on the water and on land scooters, wagons, roller-skates, motorbikes… all types of transportation that help you glide past lots of problems and pitfalls. You might ask who (or is it whom?) provides a great deal of this life-saving emergency equipment? It is, close family members, that help carry the heavy load, and the rest is the helping hands from friends and sometimes even from total strangers.
There are lots of people who have lived 90% of their lives on terra firma. I have known some. I have seen their photos. I have the greatest respect for people and families that have managed strong lives on very strong stable terra firma. It would be nice. There is always the possibility that sometime in the future I might move to that elusive spot somewhere on this planet earth. Until that time, and on this particular birth-week I would like to thank all of the people who have helped my family and me through the years with that life saving helping hand. I hope you all know who you are, in the here and now as well as in the far and distant past. I’m still here, thanks again. BTW I had my favorite lemon cake and Champagne on my birthday. It was a nice birthday after all.
Until Next Week…