I Believe in Birthdays!
Tomorrow marks the 85th anniversary of the day my Mother was born on a cold winter day in an old farmhouse on the prairie of South Dakota. The baby by seven years, born into a poor family, I wonder how her mother felt about this sickly little one who entered their lives, one more mouth to feed. Life was hard for farm wives in those days. My Mother lived to be sixty seven, spending the last years of her life battling the rheumatoid arthritis that crippled her and the congestive heart failure that finally took her life. She left for the spirit world on a cold January day seventeen years ago. It seems like forever ago now, and I often think of how much she would have loved telephones that could send messages and pictures and unlimited talk time instead of my father's strictly enforced ten-minute limit on long-distance calls. I do not commemorate the day my mom died, choosing instead to honor her on her birthday. Had it not been for that day, I wouldn't be!
My mother was typical of most housewives of her day, keeping a spotless house, and balanced meals on the table three times a day at 8, 12, and 6 without fail, sick or well, tired or not. She did the washing and the ironing, the shopping and the gardening. She supervised our activities and who our friends were, and ensured that my two sisters and I had appropriate clothing for school, church and play. Over and above those "job requirements", she took the time and effort to make holidays and birthdays something special, something we awaited eagerly each year.
Birthdays back then were not elaborate or expensive affairs, the hundreds of dollars spent on them nowdays would shock my Mom. Despite moderate spending, she made us feel very special, the dining room festooned with crepe paper streamers and balloons, a fancy cake - often shaped like an animal or some other special design - made by her (not purchased at the bakery or grocery store), treats to share at school and small parties with friends when we were younger, a favorite dinner of our choice as we grew older, and always a few beautifully wrapped gifts. I naively grew up thinking everyone's birthday was celebrated this way, but learned in later years that birthdays were nearly non-events in some children's lives, and sometimes their parents failed to acknowledge them altogether. I realize now how blessed I was to have a Mom who cared.
Due to my Mom's love of holidays and birthdays, my sisters and I grew up believing that such times should be special. As children we saved our allowance to buy her a flower or perfume, or a lacey handkerchief from the dime store for her birthday. Making birthday cakes for Mom ranks high among our early baking adventures. Our proudest moment was when we saved up enough earnings from babysitting in our high school years to buy her first dishwasher and have it delivered to the door. When we grew up we carried on Mom's holiday and birthday traditions in our own homes with our children. A birthday without a special cake? Unthinkable!
My own children are grown and live far from home now, some years I have a birthday cake, and some years it doesn't happen. I always find myself missing mom most at those times. In our house growing up birthdays were never just another day... and at 58 years old, I still don't think they should be!
I have a hard time understanding friends who don't want their birthday mentioned, who find it depressing to add another year to their score, and who definitely don't want any fuss made by way of celebration. I am not one for big fancy parties, not ever for any reason, but I do love small and simple celebrations with a few friends, coworkers, or family. I ALWAYS celebrate my birthday... not because I love getting older - life is not kind to your body as you age, it gets harder - but rather I celebrate because a birthday means another year survived, another year when the ups and downs of life didn't get the best of me! It also means that I have lived to see another year coming up that has the potential to be full of surprises and happy times in the making. I have come thru a dark and difficult past to a time in my life that is very good, and I know that there is always the possibility for even better things ahead... I believe in tomorrow!
Tomorrow also marks the birthday of a long-time dear friend, more like a brother to me. Although I can't be with him to celebrate or to bake him a cake, I send him my greetings and love across the miles, and I smile in gratefulness that the universe gifted me with his presence in my life. He has been and continues to be a wonderful blessing to me! Happy Birthday K, and may God give you many more!