Today’s my day.
It’s been pointed out to me that in addition to being my birthday, today is the official start of hurricane season. Coincidences are funny.
Birthdays were a big deal in my house when I was a kid. There was lots of celebration, and we always had homemade cake, decorated by my sweet Aunt Margie, my mom’s younger sister, who was diabetic but still made her Nanny Po a fancy cake every year. See, when I was a little kid, I couldn’t say my whole name: Nancy Katapodis. That was a mouthful for a little girl. The best I could manage was Nanny Po. Aunt Margie always called me that, even after I’d grown up. Dadgummit if pancreatic cancer didn’t strike her down 14 years ago. If she were here, she’d be making me the Barbie bowl cake right now, with lots and lots of frosting, and calling me Nanny Po.
I don’t mind one bit that I’m growing older. Not one little bit. I might have B.C. (Before Cancer) but not now. There’s something so very sweet about coming out on the other side of a hellacious battle against a vicious beast and its equally nasty side-kick. Breast cancer and mycobacterium stole a lot from me, but they will not steal my birthday joy. Pre-B.C., I might have fretted about being on the wrong side of 40, about the crow’s feet and the less-than-smooth skin. But not anymore.
I’m planning to savor every second of my birthday. Growing older means I’m alive. I’m here to celebrate another year. I’m thrilled to bits to be 42 today.
I really hope that this year is better than last.
Not to tempt fate, but it can hardly be worse.
Once cancer came to call, I realized that each birthday is much more than the day of one’s birth; it’s another year of victory. It’s another year of walking upright as opposed to being tethered to a hospital bed. Triumphant and upright yet still scarred, I learned first-hand the Chinese proverb:
“The appearance of a disease is swift as an arrow; its disappearance slow like a thread.”
True, so true.
The utter suckiness of last year and the swiftly-appearing disease that is breast cancer, while totally sucky, taught me a lot. One of the big lessons, while completely corny, is to enjoy each day.
And today, on the day of my birth, I intend to do just that.
I don’t have a lot of baby pictures of myself. Those are still at my parents’ house; my mom kept a lot of pictures and a detailed baby book. Like everything else, she did the historical record-keeping of my life very well. In fact, I think most of my school pictures are hanging in the hallway at the old homestead.
I do have these pics, though, and will embarrass myself by sharing.
No idea whose parents owned the magical mystery bus that we decorated for cheer competition, but it was looking pretty festive. Oh, how I loved this particular cheer uniform. It was my favorite, and I hated to have to wear the other ones. I betcha it’s still in my parents’ attic. My mom never threw anything away. It may be moth-eaten and tattered, but I bet it’s still there.
I’m almost afraid to post any pics of my lovely self from college, because my bangs were so big they’d take up this whole screen. Go ahead and laugh. I’m right in the middle, surrounded by ’80s bangs.
After college, my first real job was editing Usborne children’s books that were written in England but sold in the U.S. My job was to “Americanize” the books, i.e., change “biscuit” to “cookie,” etc. To this day, I have a hard time deciding if the word “grey” is spelled with the “e” or an “a.” It looks more right to me as grey. Ditto “colour” vs “color.” It was a super fun job and when I had to leave, to move to Austin so Trevor could start grad school at the mighty University of Texas (HOOK ‘EM!!), my going-away party looked like this:
Randall White, the company president, and I cooked up a little show in which he pretended to insult me, and I shoved a piece of cake in his face. No one else was in on the joke, so it was a bit shocking. No wonder I have such a problem with authority, if Randall taught me these kinds of hi-jinks at my very first job.
Baby Payton got me out of the 9-to-5 lifestyle and into that of a full-time mommy. Keeping up with a hungry baby’s schedule and later chasing after a busy toddler made me wish I had an office to go to again, but only on some days.
Then I really wished I had an office to go to again!
Being responsible for the care & feeding — not to mention the character-molding — of two small kids was a big responsibility. Luckily, I had a great mentor. Just wish she’d have stuck around to help get me through my little darlings’ teenage years.
May not be all that important to them, but it’s my day, right?
Watching my boy pursue his true love (baseball) is pretty great. It reminds me a lot of my childhood, in which I spent a whole lot of time at the ball fields watching my brother and shagging fly balls. Sharing an unabashed love of the Red Sox with my boy is one of my life’s true joys.
The day Macy met Mo Willems stands out as one of the all-time best. He was so entertaining, and we love his books so much. When it was Macy’s turn to visit with him, she told him she likes to write, too. Instead of asking him some goofy question, she asked for his phone number. In parting, he told her be sure to not let Pigeon drive the bus. She replied: “As if!” I predict those two will collaborate one day.
Like my doggies. Maddy, sweet Maddy. My first dog as a grown-up. I saw her being born, and will never forget the shock of how easily the pups just slipped right out from their mama, the polar opposite of all the pushing, sweating & grunting I’d seen of births depicted on TV. Sweet Maddy entered the world easily and wormed her way into my heart. 6 pups were in her litter: 3 black, 2 blond, and 1 white. Everyone who came to look at those pups wanted the white one. But she was mine. I loved that dog all the way to the Moon and back. When she died just shy of her 15th birthday, my heart broke into a million little pieces.
She was the best dog, and a really good sport. I guarantee she didn’t want to wear bunny ears — she was much too smart & sophisticated for that — but because her girl asked it of her, she complied. Sweet old thing.
My dogs bring me a lot of happiness. A lot of dog hair, but happiness, too. Harry and Pedey make me smile every single day.
Later, of course, we learned it’s because he’s insane. They don’t always tell you that at the Humane Society.
As does spending time with my tennis girls. Oh, how I love that. If I weren’t planning to drink so much champagne today, I’d have to get out on the court. Going to tennis camp and playing nonstop for an entire weekend was one of the best things ever. I need a re-do! Come on, girls — get your racquets and let’s go.
It’s been a crazy year, for sure. When they say it’s all down hill after 40, they really mean it! Going from 40 to 41 brought more than the usual changes for me. But I’m on a roll now.
Being 41 and a fledgling cancer survivor taught me to strut my stuff, both at the Couture for the Cause and every day.
As I strut my way into 42, I’ll hold my head high and my glass even higher. This is indeed a year for celebration.
Big brother Payton had no idea how much his world would change. Not just having to share his parents & toys, but being bowled over by this little force of nature. Nine years later, he’s still trying to figure her out.
From the very beginning, this little girl was going places. And she would get there with accessories — she always had a purse on her arm, and in general liked shoes more than clothes. I won’t embarrass her by publishing, but we have lots of photos of her in a diaper & shoes — nothing else!
Don’t let that sweet face fool you — there’s a holy terror inside that teeny little body.
She’s a master of disguises. One minute she looks like a sweet, innocent, quiet and tidy little girl.
The next minute, she’s doing this…
From a very early age, Macy was wild & crazy and very, very adept at expressing herself. (Notice the look on my face here: exhaustion mixed with helpless with a little bit of terror thrown in for fun.) She was not even two years old and had mastered the art of the crazy face.
By age 3, Macy had enlisted accomplices and trained them well in her arts. She will likely shoot me in the head for publishing a photo of her in a Dora nightgown; despite her young age there she currently has her fashionista rep to uphold.
This was a common sight at our house in her early years. In this particular instance, she decorated herself while I was talking to a workman in our new house about some warranty repair issues. The guy was in his 20s, unmarried without kids, and he about had a heart attack when she appeared on the scene like this. I asked him to wait a sec while I got my camera. After I took the photo he said, I can’t believe you stopped to photograph her; I thought you would spank her or something. I shook my head and said, spanking a true artist is futile and only makes your hands hurt.
There seemed to be no end to her uses for markers. Thank heavens they’re washable. The blue beard is one of my favorites. I especially like how it complements the blue writing on her Red Sox shirt (and yes, we brainwashed her, too, but it didn’t take, and she can be spotted in Yankee apparel. YUCK.)
She’s not looking too happy in this photo; maybe I caught her and subjected her to a picture before she was done creating her look.
In case you are wondering, it was not Halloween. Just an ordinary day in Macy’s life.
You know how those creative geniuses can be.
At least she looks happy in this photo. I’m just glad she wasn’t blinded by all the sparkly gunk in and around her eyes.
We used to joke (and still do, actually) that Payton rarely had a crumb or speck of food on his face or clothes, but Macy wore more than she ate.
I’m pretty sure she needed to be hosed down after this meal. Spaghetti in our kitchen in Durham. Good times.
She liked to drink with gusto, too.
I love how she has her sippy cup in one hand, and a water jug in the other. If she’s a double-fisted drinker in college, we’ll say, remember when… This too was in the kitchen in Durham; I will never forget that laminate floor.
She had just turned 3 and we were visiting my parents’ friends, Keith & Nancy Davis, at their beach house in Galveston. It was February, so cold and windy but we still got out on the beach. Macy found this shell and was convinced she could hear the ocean.
A beach baby was born. This girl loves the beach: the sand, the surf, the seagulls…all of it.
In the picture below, she’s 2 and at Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts with her buddy Amanee.
Look how tiny she was. But never without her shades, even at age 2. That seems like 100 years ago.
When she wasn’t at the beach, she was in the pool. Swimming has always been basic to Macy’s existence. Even as a tiny baby, she loved to be in the bath, whether in the sink, the portable baby tub, or eventually in the real bathtub. To this day, she can stay in forever.
Swim team was fun. She especially liked winning a blue ribbon.
She has always been a hard worker, and even at this young age she worked hard at hosing down the gunite stage of the pool.
It had to be done twice a day, and she took that job very seriously. In fact, she seemed offended if anyone else tried to do it.
I don’t recall for sure, but I’m guessing that the gunite wasn’t the only thing she squirted with the hose.
Come on, fill the pool already, people! Let’s go swimming.
And swim she does, year-round. Yes, it’s usually warm in Houston, but there are some days in the January-February range that are chilly. Those days do not stop Miss M from swimming. Once when she was 3 or 4 and insisted on swimming on a chilly day, Aunt Sophia asked her if it was “nice and cold” and Macy said, “no, it’s nice cold.”
Not long after the pool was finally finished, Macy found a little frog swimming in, but trying to get out of, the pool.
Her animal loving instincts kicked in and she raced to get the net and rescue that frog. This was just one example of her unconditional love of all critters.
Before our beloved dog Maddy died, Macy asked if our next dog could be named Harry. She had been reading the fabulous children’s book series Harry the Dirty Dog and got an idea.
Lo and behold, when we went to Houston Humane Society we found Harry, a not-so-dirty dog. He promptly became Macy’s dog.
She’s an equal-opportunity dog lover, though, which is a good thing for Ed’s dog Sugar, who is wicked and wily and full of energy. Sort of like Macy.
I thought we’d found the cutest dog ever when we adopted Pedey on Payton’s 8th birthday. He was tiny and soft and cuddly and seemed sane compared to the other dogs in our life.
The birds get in on the Macy love, too, not just frogs and dogs.
She loves to make bird treats for our fine feathered friends.
Take a pinecone, coat it in peanut butter (the messier the better, according to Macy), then roll it in birdseed. Tie a string in the middle of the pinecone.
Voila — tasty treats for all the birds in your life.
Macy thought this was the best thing ever, and couldn’t wait to get her hands on that little guy.
I hope that the grown-up Ike is happy and healthy with fond memories of the sweet little girl who helped care for him when he lost his home in a tall tree in Spring, Texas.
And don’t forget about Jeffrey, the orphaned mockingbird rescued by the Hoover family.
The smile on Macy’s face says it all.
A bird on your shoulder and the sun on your face: does life get any better?
This was a big thrill: meeting Mo Willems, author of some of Macy’s favorite books.
If you’ve never read “The Pigeon Wants a Puppy” then I urge you to get to the bookstore today. You’ll thank me later.
We met Mo at Blue Willow Bookshop one Saturday and when it was Macy’s turn to go through the line and have him sign her books, she wanted to ask him a question. I figured it would be something about the characters or the creative process, or maybe the illustrations. Nope, she asked Mo, “What’s your phone number?”
Starting school was pretty cool. Macy especially liked her beautiful backpack. So much so that not long after school started, she wrote her name all over it, in messy kindergarten scrawl, with a giant black sharpie.
Kinda reminded me of the time she wrote all over our brand-new furniture, and herself, with a giant black sharpie.
I can’t find those photos. Probably burned them because of the painful memories they invoke. But she looked pretty proud of herself, wearing rainboots & a diaper, covered in black sharpie.
The 50th day of kindergarten was lots of fun, and Macy convinced me to get matching poodle skirts. She’s very persuasive.
We also enjoyed the kindergarten Thanksgiving celebration.
With Macy in our lives, we have a lot to be thankful for. And not just around the holidays.
She likes anyone who does her bidding, but she & Papou have a special bond.
The chef’s hat stays at the restaurant, though, Macy. Sorry.
Make a wish!
Whether they want to or not.
Just wear it — it’s easier than arguing with her!
No matter what’s on the wish list, though, this birthday girl is always ready to party.
Costumes are not required, but Macy would highly recommend them.
Oh, if only every day were Crazy Hair Day!
May you always have crazy hair and lots of treats on your most special day, sweet girl.
Could it have been any bigger?
I had to go back to the store — twice — to buy more candy to fill it.
Then we worried that none of the kids would be able to break it.
Never fear, your baseball-loving brother supplied his metal bat. Plastic bats are for sissies.
And yes, she still loves pigs.
Has from day one and I suspect she always will.
I’m just waiting for her to discover that some people keep pigs as pets. Thanks a lot, George Clooney!
She “wrote” or more likely scribbled letter and wanted to mail them to friends and relatives near and far.
One year for her birthday, she got a lot of stationery and stamps.
Maybe she’ll be a foreign correspondent someday.
Or maybe just keep in touch with the people she loves.
Wherever you go and whatever you become, it’ll be great. This I know for sure. Because our Macy girl is wild, silly, caring, imaginative, wacky, creative, sweet, inventive, thoughtful, resourceful, funny, engaging, sensitive, loving, and all-around amazing.
Cheers to Macy!