Every year for our birthday our mom would host a party with our family, our Godparents and our friends who lived in the neighborhood. When I think back to those days I can still feel the excitement and anxious anticipation of having everyone over to celebrate. It was the best day of the year, the one day in which it was all about ME. When there are six people in a family and you are a middle child, these days are a gift in themselves.
On one particular birthday our gluttonous Cocker Spaniel hopped upon to the dining room table and ate the corner of my specially made cake. We discovered the missing corner and then found Benji covered in frosting. None of our guests had any clue there was an issue with the cake, because my mom filled the missing corner with frosting and served pieces from the other side. There weren't any complaints of anyone pulling dog hair from their teeth, so no one was the wiser.
On my 16th birthday party my parents wheeled around my birthday present on two wheels and not four, and I’m pretty sure my face conveyed what my spirit felt, utter disappointment there was no car for me in my immediate future.
I remember slumber parties with my friends. I also recall at one particular party my brother gave me his gift in front of my middle school friends, my very own fishing pole and tackle box. I loved to fish, but I was embarrassed my ‘cool’ friends now knew it. I also remember when he hosted a surprise slumber party for me and all my girlfriends in his small apartment. I always knew he was a great salesman, but convincing parents to let their teenage daughters stay the night at my 25 year old brother’s apartment required some serious salesmanship.
I have so many memories of my birthdays growing up, all because of my mom. She created a special feeling towards our birthdays, and continued to do so as we grew older. She was always the first one to ask “What are you doing for Ryanne’s birthday or when are you having Austin’s party.”
For the woman who made our birthdays special year after year, I can only remember celebrating two of hers. I know we celebrated more than what I can recall, but only two made an impression in my memory.
Is that normal? Is it self-absorption? Is it a part of life? Our mom’s give, we take and then we forget to return the gesture.
About ten years ago my mom wanted to celebrate her birthday up at Crystal Mountain. She rented a condo big enough to house all the kids and grandkids. She wanted us to ski all day, swim in the pool, stay the night and then ski the next day. We skied, swam and then we left. No one stayed the night, with the exception of my mom and dad. I remember she was disappointed as we all drove home, but said she understood. We left because life was busy, chaotic and stressful with young kids. We didn’t feel like we had time to stay one more day. One day.
The other birthday I can remember was her last. Kimmy hosted a beautiful brunch for our mom and her dear friend. We had strawberry stuffed French toast made from brioche bread. My mom found the recipe in the paper and wanted this for her birthday celebration. I still remember she and her girlfriend giggling like high school girls as they monkeyed with their point and shoot cameras.
Now that she’s gone, I anticipate and think about her birthday for several weeks leading up to the day. I think about her birthday with an ache in my heart, not only because she’s gone, but also because I feel regret. I feel ashamed. I wish I would have celebrated her more when she was here. Perhaps that is the hardest thing about grief, the regret. Today I regret I did not celebrate her birthdays the way she celebrated mine.
Today is March 23rd and I celebrate my mom.
Mom, I wish you were here so I could make you a cake and tell you thank you for putting your family first year after year. Today I wish I could celebrate you in the biggest way possible, in the way you deserve.
May your waters be flat and the snow be plentiful.
May your cake be delicious and make you feel special.
All my love.
Happy Birthday Mom.