Here’s what the internet tells me are suitable gifts for a woman turning 40: a cruise, a necklace or bracelet, tickets to the Ellen show, an iPad, a sweater. It doesn’t mention my gift to myself for this year: a brick behemoth of a century-old house in Detroit.
Likewise, ideas for outdoor 40th birthday parties on Pinterest (“drink station using bookshelves. jello shots, frozen mimosa pops, glittered champagne bottles, etc.”) don’t seem designed for the bash we’re planning for our back yard this weekend — ostensibly a party celebrating our house purchase, but on the date that just happens to be my 40th birthday, and the day after Brian’s birthday, to boot. Ahem. I give you the ‘after‘ shot of our own little haven following an afternoon my sister-in-law and I spent raking, weedpulling, and power washing.
Party planning guides also seem to be missing the chapter I need. Namely:
How to host a house party with outdated (if any) plumbing, no furniture, and a single used appliance (a stove) that you haven’t tested yet.
But you know what? It’s ok. I was fretting about the paltry water pressure in the sole operational shower and the absence of a nice stack of fresh bath towels or enough sleeping rooms for our houseguests, let alone any kind of amenities, when I realized what a nice problem that is to have. We have enough friends and family who are excited for our Detroit house adventures that they want to come celebrate with us. It’s a holiday weekend and they’re traveling — from Louisville, from Cincinnati, from Phoenix, from their own amazing adventures — to spend it with us and discover what we love about Detroit. They won’t care that I’m using a paint-spattered dropcloth as a shower curtain, or mind too much if they have to queue up for the shower, or use the kinda creepy toilet in the basement. They know this house is a labor of love in progress and aren’t looking for a designed-for-Pinterest setting.
That said, if the hide-and-seek plumber doesn’t get his arse in gear and give me some decent water pressure, he can’t run far enough to get away from me. And so help me, if he pulls a stunt like the electrician did, and shuts some portion of the water off then leaves for the weekend, well, hell hath no fury like a birthday girl burned. I’ve warned my friends to be prepared for urban camping, and have welcomed them to BYOB, but that does *not* mean bring your own water.
Anyway. For quite some time, we’d talked about celebrating my 40th year with an extended stay in Paris, a long-time dream — renting an apartment for a few months and making it our temporary home. After just a week in Detroit I knew I had to push that dream aside for a much more exciting one: our own — permanent — house in the D.
It’s been maddening as often as not — a hair-pulling, whiskey-swigging, teeth-clenching, stomach-churning, sleep-depriving, sometimes sobbing kind of madness that only a close few have had to bear witness to. We don’t know if it was the right decision, and won’t know for years, likely. Paris will have to wait. For that matter, all travel will have to wait until (unless) we break even and possibly start earning some income on the two rental flats. But at the end of every day, it’s what we wanted more than anything.
I’m turning 40 and I’ve done something hugely scary and even more tremendously exciting, and potentially more rewarding than anything in my life till now. It’s a terrifying and wonderful mess, and with or without proper party accoutrements or maybe even the necessities of modern life, we’re going to celebrate that.
See you there!