Some of us approach birthdays with trepidation, others with a sense of joy, and some people really don’t think about being another year old.
My mother used to be in the first category, especially in the last two decades. Her image of youth and trying to maintain it seemed to be constantly on her mind. She took a glamor shot at 72 years old and at the time, we (her kids) rolled our eyes. Now I think, damn, I hope I can look that good.
Mom used to see her friends at work, after work, and at community functions. She marched with farmworkers, participated in strikes, rallied for parks in the neighborhood, and was in more civil rights organizations than I can remember. Sunday visits to relatives, birthday parties, wedding’s and baptisms filled the weekends.
Now her brothers and sisters have passed on. She can’t drive. When she sees friends it’s at funerals and that number is dwindling because the friend is ‘in’ the funeral.
This reality bites. She’s been known to misquote Bette Davis:
“Old Age Ain’t For Sissies,” by saying ‘old age is a bitch,” pardon her french.
She’s mellowed out now and finds joy in most situations. She loves to have a good time, a great Bloody Mary, a cold Corona, or a moist chunk of chocolate cake. And two out of three is even better.
On Mother’s Day, she gathered us and the grandkids around the table in the backyard to talk about her upcoming birthday. “If you planned to give me a party, don’t. I have everything I need or want and I’ve been blessed more than I can say…”
She then told us a story about a young mother in our county who was burned in a horrible attack which left her with medical bills, without a job, and who is now struggling to keep her apartment.
Anything you were going to get me, give to her. Donate the money to her and her four children.
We were momentarily stunned. She loves parties and gifts. But then again, she loves helping people and that’s what she’s done all of her life.
I found the newspaper article on the victim and found out her husband committed the crime. He doused her with gasoline and lit a match. The evilness of this act can only be surpassed by the compassion of other people and by the mother and children surviving and thriving.
This is the link to the GoFundMe campaign set up by two women in the victim’s community.
I think this is an important part of celebrating another year. To pass on joy to others, to contribute to happiness, and to create family memories.
Birds chirped, the fountain dripped and a gardener’s blower punctuated my thoughts.The morning began with wistful moments.
Today is my son’s birthday. A rush of memories swept across my mind’s eye. A baby with his first piñata, a toddler with a potty chair, a new backpack for Kindergarten…
Could it be 30 years? When did he turn 25, 20, or 10 years old?
Did I really go from anxious mother in my ninth month of pregnancy through childhood, up and over the teen years to my son’s adulthood? So soon?
I remember hoarding baby books in preparation for his birth. Post-it notes and highlighter pen colored pages of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”
I worked in Whitter, CA commuting from Burbank on treacherous Los Angeles freeways. When I was in my third month my car was rear-ended on Highway 134. An ambulance came when I said I was pregnant.
In my fourth month, I began spotting. My secretary, a mom, took care of me. I was scared to death I might lose a child who I was just beginning to feel deep inside.
I remember the high school track where my husband took me to get exercise, mainly because he gained as much weight as I had by my sixth month.
Once, I saw myself in a full-length mirror during my eight month. In profile. I wore my favorite pink sweatsuit, which was white on the chest and stomach area. “I look like a fat pink kangaroo,” I cried.
We told bits and pieces of these stories to my son on his birthday never leaving out the hospital run. My husband’s old silver Camaro roared down Highway 134 with me clutching the bucket seats, in fear of the excessive speed and the pain of the cramps. Turned out the cramps were Braxton Hicks. He drove slower the next time we went to the hospital, both of us thinking of another false alarm. It wasn’t.
I told my son about the 21 hours of labor and my move from the cool mama birthing room to a cold steel gurney for an emergency C-Section. “All those breathing classes,” my husband said.
His dad told him the ‘hospital story,’ when I wouldn’t leave him after they released me but not him because of jaundice.
“They sent in nurses, a social worker, the doctor, and finally a priest.”
“I wouldn’t budge,” I’d say.
The hospital staff gave in to me saying I’d be responsible for bringing him in three times a day for his Bilirubin counts. We did. The stubbornness of new mothers.
I remember the touch of my son’s silky baby fingers on my face; a blink of recognition from his eyes when he turned to my voice. First words, first everything.
Parents. We remember a toddler’s triumphs on the potty or their discovery of new things. And everything was new.
We remember the stick figure drawings they first gave to us, turkey hands at Thanksgiving, and homemade Christmas decorations from school.
We recall the angst, pimples, broken hearts and we felt life right alongside them. Sometimes.
And then, somehow, when you’re not ready, the years roll by with so many firsts, challenges, and heartaches.
We know we can’t protect our children from everything life will bring, but we pray or hope or nag them thinking we can. We hope they’ll turn to us when life gets hard and they need a listening ear.
The pages of their book, your book too, keep turning.
Sometime today, I will shed a tear (I already am, of course) remembering the gift my son gave me on his birthday.