One of my colleagues just turned 30 and announced that for the first time, she was going to sit out Coachella. Whether those two events are related will be for you, Dear Reader, to decide. But turning 30 has always been a line of demarcation between youthful indiscretions and maturity, if not an outright line in the generational sand -- remember when we never trusted anyone over 30?
But I can top her. I am turning 65, a birthday pinnacle that, without question, sounds astonishing even to me. And to mark the occasion, I staged my own version of Coachella: I called a summit of my Wolf Pack.
My closest women friends -- aka, my Wolf Pack -- came in from around the country to join me for a three-day party. We danced like no one was watching (and made a pinky promise to not post it to Facebook), we hiked along the beach and bluffs for hours, we cooked and feasted and drank with gusto. We spent a day on a 54-foot sailboat where we saw dolphins, whales and maybe the Loch Ness Monster, who we toasted with even more champagne. We belted out Janis Joplin songs in my living room, did a little howling at the moon, and in the spirit of the weekend, we all got tattoos (the fake kind that wash off although, ahem, mine hasn't yet. Someone explain, please).
We had the kind of weekend you can only have with a Wolf Pack -- which is how I wanted my birthday season to open. (Yes, I believe in having a birthday season and not limiting it to just one day when the honoree is feted. My family will be celebrating with me this coming weekend on my actual birthday.)
The Wolf Pack summit was a marvelous party-hardy occasion with much girlfriend laughter and joy. I've known these women for decades and we have attended the main events of each others' lives. We have been there for weddings, kids' graduations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and surgeries. We have spent holidays together, traveled together, cooked together, comforted one another. And despite now being scattered to the four corners, we manage to see each other a few times a year -- always picking up right where we left off.
Of course, on the occasion of this milestone birthday, there was a fair amount of tripping down Memory Lane. Like, do you remember the time we backpacked into the wilderness with frozen chicken breasts tied to our packs because we all love to eat well and didn't consider the lingering smell of defrosting poultry? Or the time we were on the verge of collapse trying to make the Yosemite High Sierra camp before dark and but were instantly revived when we found wine waiting for us; a Wolf Packer had bribed a guy on a horse to carry it in two bottles and surprise us. Or the time we hiked inn-to-inn -- a trip that started by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and up into the Marin Highlands and ended four nights later at Chez Panisse -- a nod to aging with the realization that even great company is enhanced by a few creature comforts.
We recalled how we smashed plates in the Athens' Plaka; danced on the bar in Mykonos; and were still up from the night before when the sun rose over Antiparos. We remembered the European businessmen who invited us to sail away with them from Zakynthos; we declined but still debate the road not taken. We remembered how we always left Greece feeling like the "veddy veddy beautiful" women that Greek men always assured us we were. As one Wolf Packer noted, "We would step on the plane to come home as 5'10 willowy blondes and disembark in Los Angeles as ourselves." It was a magic act only performed in Greece.
We remembered our long road trips together, serenaded by a Wolf Packer who knows the words to possibly every song ever written and certainly every song on the "Big Chill" soundtrack. We remembered how I am afraid of fording rivers, even those just two-inches deep; and how one Wolf Packer is afraid of snakes, even those just two-feet long.
We remembered when we camped out and I almost set my acrylic nails ablaze trying to light the fire; and how I still beg for help rolling up my sleeping bag tight enough for it to fit back in the little bag. And we remembered the front row seat we had to a meteor shower so incredible that it rendered us speechless -- and sleepless -- for hours. We remembered how we had the wilderness to ourselves for days until a troop of Boy Scouts came marching over the horizon just as we got naked in the Jordan Hot Springs. We declined to budge and held our ground. I suspect we were a trip highlight and renewed many a tired scout's interest in scouting.
We remembered the time we came home so filthy from a multi-day hike that our pickup driver hesitated to let us in the car. That may have been the same trip as the acrylic fingernails that almost caught fire, but none of us could actually remember. We also remembered that faulty memory isn't necessarily a byproduct of aging: I couldn't find my wedding rings 20 minutes before the ceremony until my Wolf Pack came to my rescue.
But for the first time in my recollection, we also talked about something new and foreign to this Wolf Pack: Retirement. We joked about whose kids will likely let us live with them and -- far preferable to that scenario -- how cool it would be to all wind up living together.
Turning 65 is a process, I've decided, that's best swallowed in small sips. There is nothing about my life that bears the slightest resemblance to my parents or grandparents when they were 65. I'm lightyears away from stopping work, living in an age-segregated community, or playing Mah Jongg with "the girls" on a weekend. No, you are way more likely to see me and the Wolf Pack at Coachella. We'll be the ones singing Janis Joplin tunes.