Last Wednesday was my birthday. Like most adult birthdays it was sandwiched between responsibilities. Like going to the post office or four separate conversations with the doctor’s office about insurance. I wanted it to be special, but I felt the weight of all my obligations. Then I was challenged by my teacher to do “something that our spirit asks us to pursue.” It was such a beautiful prompt, and I felt foolish with my response. Take Leila to Common Bond for lunch. I drive by it at least once a week, and I never stop. I thought my birthday would be the perfect opportunity to finally taste their creations, but I had already written it off in lieu of something more constructive. Then I happened to read this challenge in time for me to pick up Leila from school and take her with me for a lunch of sweets – a non-nutritious, expensive, non-productive lunch of desserts.
Simply making the decision to drive past all my other errands was immensely liberating. I rode that freedom inside where I felt the excitement my toddler must feel on Halloween. My four-year-old decisively told me she wanted the “strawberry one.” I kept scanning back and forth down the line, weighing my options with the importance usually reserved for matters of actual importance. I was transported to the 18th arrondissement and the tiny café outside of the Metro in Montmartre, and I could have stayed there happily gazing at pastries enjoying the pleasure of simply thinking about what to order, but there was a line. I talked Leila into the cupcake and then ended up ordering the “strawberry one” just the same, along with a vanilla latte. We both wanted to sit outside, so we made our way to a sunny table where we both focused on the strawberry dessert.
A man walked out with one of their simple hand sandwiches and a diet coke, and I was almost knocked over with nostalgia for my summer in France and so many meals of that persuasion. We sat there and ate and Leila looked out at the traffic and I just sat there enjoying this moment of simply being. And it was really such a brief moment in my day, but I could not recall the last time I did something so frivolous with my time. I have only experienced such breaks when we lived in Rwanda and in the early days and months of Leila’s life, which I realized might explain my attachment to having both of those experiences again. Perhaps we will live abroad again. Perhaps our family will be blessed with a tiny life and the haze of a babymoon at least once more. But we are not there now. And my birthday was a gentle reminder that I cannot wait for those moments – the end, or absence, or break from a to-do list, from life, from adulthood to embrace a moment of being. I have to create it. Sometimes I have to choose to have dessert for lunch.