Michelle Martin

Best laid plans

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

I don’t usually do much to celebrate my birthday. Maybe it comes from being born in the summer, when school was out and friends who could come celebrate were limited to those in the neighborhood.

Or maybe it’s just that I usually prefer not to be the center of attention. I’d rather celebrate my kids’ birthdays than my own. I’m happy to spend the day quietly grateful for the life I live and the love of my family, even (especially) their love of goofy cards.

But this year, my birthday fell on a weekend, and my husband, Tony, wanted to celebrate by going on an actual date — something that’s not terribly usual after nearly 30 years of marriage, the last 2½ with COVID-19 and kids in and out of the house.

My mom was available to have Teresa spend the night, meaning she would be not only occupied but happy. Caroline had plans to work on a film shoot overnight both weekend nights. We would be unsupervised by our children, as free to do whatever we liked as we were decades ago, in another life.

We decided to go to a baseball game, something we did often when we were dating. The last time just the two of us went to a game? I don’t know, but I think it was before Teresa was born 12 years ago.

Caroline’s plans changed first; a member of the cast tested positive for COVID only hours before the shoot was supposed to start. The money spent on rental equipment was wasted. The shoot would have to be rescheduled, and some parts possibly recast, if not everyone could be available. She was not only at loose ends, she was sad. Tony offered his baseball ticket to her, since she’s become a fan over the past couple of years.

She declined and made plans to go out with one of her film colleagues for a few hours. We went to the game, which the White Sox won in what has been an up-and-down season. The weekend seemed back on track until, as we drove home, we got a call from Teresa. My mother wasn’t feeling well; did we think maybe she should come home?

The subtext was one of worry: What if her grandmother was really sick? What was she supposed to do?

We’ll be there in about an hour, we said.

We stopped at home, picked up Caroline, and set out for the suburbs. By the time we got there, my mother was feeling better, but tired, so we collected Teresa and headed home, making a late-night stop at a drive-in restaurant to make it more like an adventure.

We had just pulled into the garage when Tony nodded at the dashboard clock and said, “Happy birthday.”

After everyone had a chance to sleep in, we resumed festivities, heading back to my mom’s house for a birthday dinner, and, still more reason to be grateful for this wonderful life. Even if it doesn’t go precisely according to plan.



  • family life