Birthdays have always been a challenge to me for a variety of reasons. As a child we were often in dire financial situations. My mom was raising us alone (most of the time) and often worked two or three jobs. Winter holiday gifts were winter clothes and my birthday gifts were summer clothes. I understood the circumstances and most of the time I was grateful for whatever I got. Of course, most of my friends were in better situations than my family so, I sometimes envied them. I remember the joy at receiving a book in the mail from my aunt in New York. Books were a luxury we couldn’t afford. The highlight of my birthday was getting to choose the dinner of my choice. Being the oddball that I was I often wanted liver or artichokes for my special meal.
I had graduated early from high school and started junior college. Within months I got married. I married as a means of escaping my homelife. (I realized that later, not at the time.) My, then spouse and I were living in poverty for quite a while. I tried to make the best of the situation. I made my children’s toys and clothes. I attempted to spoil them with the one thing I had, my love. My birthday was still not important to most anyone. I just assumed that was how it was always going to be. It didn’t make me stop wanting to celebrate others as best I could. I enjoyed making cards and gifts for my family.
As my daughter’s grew, they would lovingly make and get me the sweetest gifts. Those birthdays meant the world to me. The care and thought they gave to finding something that would make me happy was wonderful. As teens, they surprised me with a booking to get our pictures taken together at JC Penny’s or Sears. (I don’t remember which.) They hadn’t been willing to do pictures for quite a while, so I was overjoyed. It wasn’t “cool” to have your picture taken with your mom. One of those shots was on a prior blog.
As my girls grew up and moved away birthdays were still so important to me. Just as life experiences change so did the time, they had to spend with me. I did my best to see them for their birthdays when they lived close enough. They were busy, and we would often have to visit on a weekend. I was very grateful for any time we were able to see each other. It did mean that my actual birthday was often spent alone. Being alone made for some melancholy days. I began to expect to feel my birthday was just another day. I looked back at their childhood years with wistful memories of cards they made with love and affection. Boy, the years went by so fast.
As an adult most of my birthdays have felt like just another day of the year. I didn’t exactly feel sad. It was often more of a “What is missing here?” When I can spend my birthday with my grandkids my heart is happy. Being a grandparent is such a precious joy. The two oldest are teens now and I wonder how long they will still have time for their Nana.
I woke up today half expecting to be sad because of the isolation factor. Instead, I had thoughts of my mom. We had a good relationship in her later years. This morning I kept thinking of how difficult her life was and how she did the best she could raising us, with what she knew. I am grateful she gave me life and taught me so much. I believe my strength and determination are traits she instilled in me. I made a conscious decision to enjoy the day, no matter how different it may look. I thought about how proud she was of all I had accomplished. I found her brownie pan and I made dark chocolate brownies with melted junior mints and chocolate chips as the frosting. It was a special treat for both of us.
This was an extra special day for me. I felt like a life altering change happened. I was joyful and I did not feel alone. I was grateful for what I have instead of what I don’t have. I accept and realize that I am loved, and I love so many wonderful people. To my sheer delight I received birthday messages all day. I feel like I sent out the message to the universe that I was OK with or without people today. Instead of feeling isolated I was gifted with more texts, calls, and Facebook messages than I have ever had on my birthday. I heard from people who have never contacted me for my birthday.
Why this year? Is everyone feeling the need to reach out to others right now?
The first lesson for me today is to reach out when I am thinking of people for whatever reason. A message just might be what they need at the time. The second thing I learned is that even if people don’t reach out to me, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t holding me in their heart. Today was a safe, peaceful, special birthday. Hopefully next year I will be giving hugs away on my birthday.