Another year inexorably rolls around. Like it or not, I am 75. And so, a riff on the tsuris of birthdays –

My children sent me flowers – a lovely bouquet that obviously cost a bundle. They sent it online to a Philadelphia florist, who came shortly after dinner, bearing a huge arrangement of flowers in a glass vase.

Yet, I’m always ambivalent about flowers. Yes, they’re lovely. But, despite my replenishing the vase with fresh water every day, the roses never fully opened, browning around the edges, and wilting, gazing up at me sadly as if I had something to do with their short, painful life. Evoking not happy emotions but melancholy and guilt: Something like a funeral in progress, like the ant farms I bought for both my son Dan and my grandsons, where the ants died and what we ended up watching every day was a procession of ants burying their dead. Even sadder than the time I bought Dan that glass container of “sea monkeys,” not monkeys at all, of course, but tiny shrimp: hard to see as we sprinkled them into the water, and harder still as the water clouded up. And the cleaning lady, thinking she was doing us a favor, threw out the dirty water and washed out the container.

As usual, my husband asked me to look around for something to buy myself. (Long story how I ended up buying myself my own presents. Mort has always had a hard time picking something for me – something to do with his perfectionist personality, I suppose. He’d spend so much time and money and angst trying to find the perfect gift, sometimes buying a whole bunch in case one or two of them didn’t quite hit the mark. Sometimes flowers, too, though I’d told him more than once how sad I was for the flowers and wished he wouldn’t. Then there was the absolutely gorgeous fire opal he had set in a stark setting of white gold, on the advice of a jeweler that “less is more.” Believe me, less was less. The potential of what it might have been made me sad instead of happy. I tried to shut myself up and enjoy the opal itself, but I ended up guiltily having it reset more lavishly in yellow gold.)

You know, I wonder whether it’s not Mort’s perfectionist temperament that’s the basis of the difficulty, after all, but mine…. Why not just smile and accept that it’s the thought that counts? Anyway, even a landmark birthday of 75 is so artificial. If you ask a child how it feels to turn 4 or 10 or 13 (and we do, all the time), they typically roll their eyes at you. They know that they’re not a year older in one night. Birthdays are just punctuation marks.

Anyway, long ago I gave Mort a pass on buying gifts. I’d choose my own, I said. And even though the compromise seems silly, overall, it worked for years. But then the pandemic hit, and my presents went online. Still, it worked – till this year, when it became obvious that Facebook could no longer be trusted.

So, a few weeks ago, I saw a Anne Taylor ad on Facebook for a pretty pair of embroidered shoes. 80% off! Perfect. I showed it to Mort, a very skilled consumer, who clicked on the link and was led to what looked like the genuine Anne Taylor website. He filled in our info and credit card number and bought them for me. The order page said that we would receive a confirmation email with our order number shortly. Except it never came. And, predictably, the shoes never came either. Mort called up Anne Taylor, who asked for the SKU number. We didn’t have one, and our order number made no sense to them. Long story short, it’s a scam. The website was a very elaborate fake. And now, not for the first time, we have to call the bank to cancel that card and replace it with another. Birthday bummer! (Caveat, I did order a cute top online, which did come. And another item which claims to be delayed by three or more weeks, but we’ll believe that when we see it.)

In conclusion, at present and after listening to myself bellyache for the length of this blog, I proclaim no more presents! And certainly not from Facebook ads! Instead, as my son says, we shall give memories: a day at the zoo! A 6-course dinner at the new café around the corner! A month at our lake house with the family!

Or, maybe, a pretty pair of embroidered shoes from the Anne Taylor store downtown.