The other day I mailed a birthday card to Marilynne's daughter. She and I underwent our surgeries on the same day last year.
If that day is our birthday, then I'm only about five hours older than she is. Hmm...That sounds like the makings of some sort of science fiction story. If any of you want to take the idea and run with it, be my guest: I seriously doubt that I'll ever write science fiction. I just don't think it's in me.
Anyway, in one sense, we were both born that day. If that's the case, how long was our gestation period? Was it the time we had been living as female? Our entire lives?
But today is what most people--as well as the laws of just about every jurisdiction in this world--would define as my birthday. It is the date on which I came, a whole bunch of years ago, from my mother's body into this world. I probably will always celebrate this date as my birthday, partly out of habit and, well, because it's the biggest national holiday of the country in which I was born and have spent most of my life. It's a bit like being born on Bastille Day in France or Christmas in any country that celebrates it.
The only times I wasn't in this country on the Fourth, I was in France. Three times I was in Paris; the other time I was in a town called Auch in the southwest. Unless you've been there or know something about French history, you've probably never heard of it. I ended up there on my birthday ten years ago in the middle of a bicycle tour I took through the Pyrenees. It's a lovely place, and if you should go there, you should certainly go to la Cathedrale Sainte-Marie.
It may very well have the best acoustics of any place of worship in the world. It certainly has one of the best organs and choirs. The singers were rehearsing that day. I got into a conversation with a sweet-faced alto-soprano who was about twenty years older than I was. Even before she talked, I could sense her enthusiasm and passion for that cathedral and for her music.
When she asked where I came from, I said, "Les Etats-Unis."
"Eh...Votre jour d'independence."
"Oui. Et mon anniversaire."
Her already bright eyes perked up. "Voulez-vous une chanson speciale?" With a smile, I nodded, and she and the choir gave a little impromptu concert for an audience of an American cycling solo in France on his birthday and his country's day of independence.
Whatever my birthday is, I believe I have an interesting heritage. And I feel honored to share at least something with Marilynne's daughter.