Are happiness and turning eighty mutually exclusive? Not at all! Yet no one is more surprised than I am to make this discovery.
Ever since I turned seventy-nine, I had dreaded the day I would turn eighty—should I live that long. In my mind, being eighty was not just old but ancient.
The only positive aspect I could find was that I could WEAR A PURPLE DRESS WITH A RED HAT that didn’t suit me, and I could spend my social security check on brandy while the refrigerator went bare.
The year-long prelude of angst could not delay the inevitable arrival of my birthday. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed one of the happiest days of my life. I had as many reasons to celebrate as I had candles on my cake.
At the most basic level, I was delighted that I was still here to celebrate this milestone! Life-threatening experiences over the years and recent medical crises made me appreciate simply being alive.
A surprise video call from long-term friends I’d left behind in the United States made me cry—but they were tears of joy. I’m glad that I moved to France, but I miss my friends very much.
Talking to them and listening to them sing “Happy Birthday” was a wonderful present. Nothing could have delighted me more. A stack of birthday cards, a chat with my sister, several birthday emails, and lovely presents also added pleasure to the day.
Next was a cocktail party with my new friends here in France. They brought more gifts—an exotic plant, a coffee—table book on Montpellier, a cutting board and a knife for bread, a gift certificate for a massage at an exclusive salon, and more.
Food, especially an extraordinary dinner, is always a lovely gift. Attenderella and Expresso outdid themselves with my birthday dinner by serving a raclette-based meal—a first for me.
Raclette requires an electric grill in the middle of the table with small pans, known as coupelles, in which guests melt slices of cheese. A small wooden spatula is then used to scrape the cheese off the coupelle and onto potatoes or meat.
The raclette grill was accompanied by platters of sliced cheese, steamed potatoes, and various charcuterie—smoked ham, salami, prosciutto, and salami. Attenderella also added a huge bowl of greens for a salad.
Expresso explained how to use the “golden triangle” when eating raclette in happiest days. One must have exactly the right amounts of cheese, potatoes, and meat. If any ingredient is unequal to the others in the triangle, one ends up replenishing one’s plate—and eating far more than one intended.
I managed to ensure that everything was evenly proportioned. I made the extra effort because I’d been warned not to have seconds—I had to save room for dessert!
(The relaxed ritual of alternately cooking and eating reminds me of a fondue meal. When I move into my new house, I’ll definitely get a raclette grill.)
The final course was a beautiful chocolate cake from our local bakery. Actually, calling the dessert a cake was a disservice—but what does one name a perfectly layered concoction of various textures unified by dark chocolate?
I struggled to blow out eight candles (I tried twice and only extinguished two), so my grandson the Wizard stepped in to help me.
I insisted on a small portion of the cake because I knew that it was very dense. This was a good decision. A small serving was all I could eat.
Expresso walked me home and carried my presents and my leftover cake, which I was determined not to leave behind. I climbed into bed fully satisfied with my birthday. I fell asleep remembering the special moments throughout the day and wondering what my family will do for my ninetieth birthdaywith happiest days.