There are downsides to having a December birthday (the combo birthday/Christmas present). But there are upsides. There are lots of festive possibilities this time of year, and when you combine those with special birthday activities, you can plan a lot of fun stuff to look forward to.
On Friday night, I took my 11-year-old son to the Nutcracker at the Academy of Music downtown. I had bought a ticket for my daughter, too, but she bailed (she may have been tired). My son turns out to be an excellent ballet watcher. He clapped for the particularly virtuosic performances, and after a few years of Nutcracker watching, he is familiar enough with the numbers to have favorites. I think he was sad he wasn’t singing with the boy choir during the snowflake dance! Now that I know he is so into this, I might try bringing him to other ballet performances. I think he might be a better date to the ballet than my husband.
Saturday we got up on time and my parents (who are spending the month in New Jersey to try out living on the east coast) came at 9 a.m. to come with us to the Choo Choo Barn in Lancaster. This was a 1700-square foot model train display, all done up for the holidays, and it was incredible. You name it, it was in there. Tiny giraffes with Santa hats. A fire that a fire truck and firemen come to put out. A model of Dutch Wonderland, complete with several of the kids’ favorite rides. We just gaped as we circled it. Then we went to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, where the kids got to see Santa and send telegraphs to the North Pole. After, we all ate lunch at a restaurant in a converted train car (by the Red Caboose Motel) looking out the window at Amish buggies.
We came home and then my husband and I turned around to go out for my official birthday present celebration. First we went to the Barnes Foundation to see the Berthe Morisot exhibit. We’d taken the kids to see this over Thanksgiving, but had to rush through. This time, we could linger and study her works more carefully.
After, we headed toward Rittenhouse Square, where we went to a spa for a couples massage. We hung out in the sauna with our Champagne, then had our massages. At one point I may have heard my husband start snoring. I guess he was relaxed! When we finished, we went to Devon Seafood Grill for oysters. So a pretty good birthday celebration day, between model trains, Berthe Morisot, a massage, and fresh seafood!
Sunday my husband took all four kids skiing, which I guess is a birthday present in its own right. I went to church to sing with the choir as usual. I was nervous about this service because I still have severe laryngitis and our two professional sopranos had been absent at our Thursday rehearsal. A small group of us were going to sing the soprano solo for a song we were doing. But then — Christmas miracle! — our pro second soprano showed up. She sang the solo and it was amazing. Mesmerizing. I love the fact that I get to sing (for free!) next to someone I would pay a lot to listen to.
Unfortunately, my voice kept getting worse, which was trouble, since I had agreed to give a speech at an executive education event at Penn. I drove downtown, and then clutched that microphone as close to my mouth as I could for my 90 minutes. But I made it through! And it was an engaged and wonderful audience.
The rest of my family got home shortly after I came home from the speech, so the evening has been spent on homework, piano practice, laundry, and such. Even on holiday weekends those still have to happen. But overall, a lot of festive fun. There are two more weekends before Christmas. We’ll see how those go!
Photo: I loved Morisot’s paintings of her husband and daughter enjoying each other’s company.