I turn 25 on Sunday. I’ve been struggling to come up with some pithy, witty way to celebrate here: 25 things I’ve learned in this quarter-century, 25 incredible things I’m going to do this year, 25 favorite moments of the past year.
But when it comes down to it, 25 is just a new year after 24–and I’m so excited for it.
24 will always was be the year that Mimi‘s cancer came back with a vengeance. It was the year of driving her to infusions, and then letting her sleep instead of kissing her good-bye the night before I drove across the country. It was the months of waiting for the call, lighting candles in cathedrals in France and wondering if I should buy a souvenir from Croatia and crossing my fingers I’d be able to tell her about Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah.
I had just returned from a perfect beach day at Taboga Island when I saw the voicemail, had just taken a shower and rinsed off the sand and the salt water. In the shower, I had thought about how unfair it was that some people died so young when other people lived far longer than they wanted, when their body (that has already failed them in so many ways) just won’t give up. I had decided long ago that when the call came, I wouldn’t go home: but regret and guilt will always tinge those quiet moments at sunrise in the San Blas Islands.
Cancer is one of those things that… It changes people. The pain eats away at the person, at their family. You watch the struggle, wishing you could do something and realizing that you can’t. Sometimes, even the small comforts you offer won’t be enough to overshadow the agony. You realize what a blessing it is to have a body that works, one that lets you sleep through the night and wake up without pain and enjoy a glass of orange juice and a bowl of cereal.
24 was the year when I learned to be grateful. To realize how lucky I was to have 23 good years with a woman who taught me how to bake, ride a bike, be a lady and to appreciate the things she left behind: the most stunning sequined jacket, crocheted baby blankets carefully folded with a note for “someday,” her engagement photo that wears a vintage filter that Instagram will never be able to replicate. I laughed when I recently tried to make cornbread in an unfamiliar kitchen without measuring cups: of course it would fail. The first thing Mimi taught me in baking was to measure precisely and read the entire recipe before you begin.
So, 25. I want to bake more. I don’t want to forget the nuances of the complicated, from-scratch recipes for pizzelles and almond cookies and nut quiches–or the near-meditation that comes in the repetition, the dexterity, the precision. Mimi would bring her homemade specialities to the bank tellers and the call center workers, making friends for life because it truly showed she cared. I want to always have chocolate chippers on hand for neighbors, and always tell them to take two–one for each hand. I want to celebrate birthdays with icebox cake or cheese pie.
I took after my grandfather. Although he passed away of a heart attack when I was 11, plenty have remarked that my mom and I are just like Poppy: we’re straightforward, we’re hard-working, we get what we want.
But this year, I want to be more like Mimi. I want to be kinder, whether that’s with a plate of homemade cookies or being extra nice to the grocery check-out girl. I want to appreciate the beauty of nature, even if it’s just the flowers on my nightstand and the birds outside my window. I want to be frugal so that I can really enjoy the splurges, really make them count. I want to keep writing letters, but maybe work on making my handwriting not only more legible but also pretty.
The only thing I regret is that I was never able to tell her–a woman born and bred in the frigid winters of Pennsylvania, a woman who escaped to Florida beaches in retirement, who hesitantly moved to California as a widow–that I, a true California girl at heart, survived my first East Coast winter. That, I think she would have been proud of.
Note: I’m flying to Iceland tonight for a week. Instead of stressing out about scheduled posts and scheduled tweets (I have enough of that to do over at ONA!), I’m taking the week off to take photos, soak in the Blue Lagoon, snorkel under the midnight sun, catch up with my best and RELAX. Thank you for understanding!