As I checked the spelling, I realised there is a Lars Von Trier film called Melancholia which was actually released in October (2011)! Fancy that. This post is not about the film, though I definitely intend to see it. I’ll check out this most excellent film review blog to see whether they might have reviewed it already. This post has a lot of death in it, but it isn’t sad. Or depressing. I am actually pretty cheerful as I write this having just read some nice comments here and watched a video about the different types of laughter.
October is the month I was born. I was born on the 9th, and I always used to say like John Lennon because I love John Lennon. I would never say like Sean Lennon because he was only born on the 9th by Yoko’s deliberate choice and caesarean op. So that doesn’t count. However, when two days ago I looked up England’s Prime Minister David Cameron on Wikipedia for reasons I will not disclose at present because I do not want to spoil my cheerful mood, I saw that he, too, was born on the 9th of October. As I dislike David Cameron very muchly, I have now nothing more to say about dates of birth and similarity of character, like, ever.
Anyhow. Birthdays are important days. If you are thinking ah but there is nobody who loves me, not like I want to be loved, so who cares about my birthday (I have thought that too) it just means I’m getting older, you are WRONG. Birthdays are important as they mark your achievement of having lived to that point. In Tuscany they use an expression for your birthday which means “You finished the years“. At first I thought how horrid does that mean I’m going to die??? Then I realised what they meant was that you managed to come all this way, full circle, you lived a whole year and that is cause for celebration.
As you immediately realise, for people who are lonely, or feel lonely, or are suicidal more often than they’d like, that is cause for even more celebration. Yes I was lonely but I got here. Yes I felt like ending it but I got to here. I made it! Tomorrow starts a new challenge but for now, I did it! Hence, the celebration.
I think everyone should do what they want on their birthdays, even if it’s playing all day getting fed and going out to buy clothes on a separate day, which is my realistic wish for this year. If people know you well enough or you are very little they will make every effort for that to happen. Then sometimes people may want to celebrate your birthday because they’re saying Hey! we’re glad you were born ’cause we like you! Let us celebrate! That is the case when you do something for your birthday not for yourself, but for them. That’s ok too, it’s a sign of loving your friends.
I, unsurprisingly, as I can’t have things simple can I?, was always conflicted around birthday times. I have no memory of birthdays with my family, except after I moved to Italy (so about 12) and then suddenly there were those people you call your family about and you had to be happy as you were celebrating your birthday. I started appreciating them a little ’cause my mum would get me a cake and it meant my siblings came to see me or in any case interacted with me for a while. Sometimes it meant my dad would remember and send a note or make a phone call. He remembered for a long time because my grandmother, his mother, was also born on the 9th of October and she used to say we were “twins“. That was funny because I had no idea (still don’t) what my grandmother was like, I only saw her on rare trips from South America to visit her in Rome, they had an amazing beautiful apartment with a terrace that overlooked Rome, something along these lines:
and I’m pretty sure she had no idea what I was like! That didn’t stop her from coming to see me in my dreams when I never usually thought of her at all and tell me don’t worry I will look after you because you are special we are twins! so that I awoke with a keen desire to call her and of course then I found out she had died that very night.
I was born in Rome, you see, after my dad brought everyone back with my mum pregnant with me from Australia where he was working for many years and where my siblings grew up, and then when I was 2 months old we moved back out to New Zealand, and that’s where I grew up. So like all blooming emigrants, especially Italian ones, I grew up with the myth of Italy, the warmth of the people and the climate, the wonderful amazing food and the beauty of MY city, Rome. I am so nuts I had a little sob when I wrote that. MY city. Jesus Christ.
I always loved Rome. So, my birthday wish after my first year in Italy (for whole of the very first year my wish was only, just, and exclusively to go back to Arequipa, Peru, to my dog and my llama), was to go to Rome for my birthday. Every year, from when I was 12, to a softly spoken now, and I am 43, my wish was always to spend my birthday in my birth town. How difficult is that, you wonder? Well, considering I never have had any money of my own, it relied completely on whoever was around me at the time to help me make my dream come true. How many times it was but this time of year, we can do it in the summer, ok? or argh I don’t have the money right now, whatever, you can imagine it, there is always something, it never happens. Except once, a photographer ex boyfriend of mine who took me in his Porsche and all he did was talk about his bloody ex girlfriend and take me to the most expensive part of Rome to buy himself a Borsalino hat. So I made him buy me a very expensive Salvador Dali tarot card deck which I wasn’t even particularly keen on and that was that. But that didn’t count!
Anyway. For many years October was the time when I started to feel sullen, and admittedly a little passive aggressive, scrutinising whoever was around me to see if they would make that effort for me, if they knew about it, if they acknowledged it, and so on. Then I realised that that sullen feeling was more than just that. It was pleasant. I felt I was reclaiming what was mine, or at least entitled to try. It was like a coming down, after all the hype and the chaos of the summer. Because summer is the month that whether through coincidence or circumstances or seasonal manias what have you, my life is usually turned upside down, usually by me. I get a crazy itch to go, mess up everything, throw all the cards into the air and see what comes down and I very very very often would do exactly that. So by the time October came it was always that everything was quieter, whatever was done was done, things started to settle and broken things were mended or thrown away, the wind storm that was me was finished and now the rains came, the weather was chillier, the colours of the trees were warmer, and I loved every single day. I would get sullen, melancholy, I would let rain fall on me and loved the mists, the coolness, the walking in wet grass. Even in Italy where it rained much less, it was the time when the warmer blankets were brought out, our lovely colourful Bolivian blankets, and the heating was tentatively turned on. Everything began to be quiet, hushed.
October is the late afternoon to my Summer’s Day.
And it’s my birthday. It started feeling particularly good when I’d just had my babies, because I knew there was no chance I could afford to go to Rome but it was for a good reason, though of course I didn’t stop hoping. My sister and my mum had found me THE best ice cream cake that existed in the world and so I was getting that every year. My ex-husband oddly enough chose to be quieter and more his better self too during those periods, so I had some respite from him as well. All in all I was just beginning to think hm, I really like October. Then my mum went and died 4 days before my birthday, just a few months after my second baby was born and had risked dying himself. In the same year that Diana had died, my mum Diana had also died, but the papers weren’t talking about my Diana. My siblings, their partners and kids and my kids and I still went ahead and had that delicious cake on my birthday, but never again after that.
I haven’t stopped wanting to go to Rome for my birthday (also, if you had any idea how incredibly stunningly beautiful Rome is in October, you’d understand, although some people assured me she is nothing like I remember her and so would be sorely disappointed), and, as always, I want to go alone. Or, if not, with my son, whom I feel very close to that gypsy rebellious Roman side of our family. But it has to be my thing, and I want to go and get lost in it, and it has to be in October, on my birthday.
So why am I writing all this today, when it’s the 16th of September and not October at all? Because today I felt the first scent of Autumn, and I am looking forward to the ghosts, the mists, the sadness, the melancholy and the peace. It is the month when I’ll probably die, when it happens, if I have a choice. I’ll make sure nobody knows it was my choice, but let’s face it, more people die by choice than we know. They let themselves die, for various reasons. I hope it will be so for me. And when it happens, if I can make it happen when I want it to happen, it will be in October, and the red, yellow and brown leaves will make it look great. Perhaps it will happen in Rome! And then my tombstone will say Born in Rome – Died in Rome and everyone will assume I lived in Rome all my life, and what a joke that will be! Still not for a while though. In the meantime, I am looking forward to my mellow October in Derbyshire.