It’s my birthday. Yay! IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!
I am not one of those women who wants her birthday to be quietly ignored while everyone pretends she is still 25 years old. In fact, I don’t remember 25 as being a particularly wonderful year. I was broke, pregnant, essentially homeless, and rather unhappily married. Things have only improved since then, so come on new year! BRING IT!
I’m 38. Next year I’ll be 39, and then 40. I own my age. I plan to grow old gracefully. At least for the next 11 years or so. I’ve got a feeling I might get stuck at 59 for a while. After all, 60 is the new 40.
It’s going to be a great day. My three littles are going to school for 5 hours, then I get to teach piano lessons to three lovely kids, and after my children are in bed I’m going out with my husband (to whom I’m now happily married) to spend money I don’t have on a dinner I only marginally deserve. Thanks to Facebook (without which I might forget my own birthday) I’ll probably get a bunch of well wishes. I know I’ll get at least two phone calls and five sticky kisses. I might even bake myself a cake while I’m home in the quiet. It’s a lot to look forward to.
If this were a Facebook post, I’d stop there. Shiny happy people holding hands. But it’s not. It’s my blog, my Circus, and here’s the place where I get to tell it like it really is. And here’s how it really is: It’s going to be a GREAT day. But it’s going to be missing something.
There’s one phone call I’m not going get. There’s one card, one gift, that hasn’t come in the mail, and isn’t going to. This is the third time it’s been missing, and frankly, it’s not a lot easier this time around. So, as a gift to myself, this year, I’m going to wallow for a few minutes. It’s my party, and I can cry if I want to.
My mother died a little more than two years back.
It was lifetime ago. It was yesterday. It was horribly sudden and also the thing I’d been dreading since I was a child. Ours was the most difficult relationship in my life and also the most precious. Her death, and the circumstances surrounding it, is probably THE defining moment of my adult life and also the thing that I most vehemently avoid thinking about. In fact, “and also” is perhaps the most useful phrase I have to describe being my mother’s daughter. But I miss her terribly.
For months after she died, I’d find myself reaching for my phone every time I had a quiet moment. I was used to talking to her three or four times a day. Eventually, this became funny in almost equal parts as it was sad.
I expected her birthday to be hard. I expected Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and the anniversary of her death to be brutal. But I was surprised by how much more difficult my children’s birthdays and my own birthday was than I expected.
Here’s the thing: there is only one person who is as intimately acquainted with your birthday as you are, and that’s the woman that birthed you. She is an equal participant in the day. Celebrating your birthday without her is akin to celebrating an anniversary without your spouse. It feels lacking. There is an empty space in the celebration.
I’ve been avoiding that space for longer than I should.
This year, I’m going to try to sit in it for a few minutes at least. I’m going to try to do the thing that scares me the most. Because that’s what growing up is about, right? It’s about getting braver and more at ease with the sticky, difficult, broken places in yourself. Because that’s where the growing happens. And if you aren’t growing as you age, you’re simply dying. So, as my own daughter said when she was four, “I’m going to be brave of that” today.
It’s still going to be a great day.
I’m going to make that cake. I’m going to dig through the junk drawers until I find 38 freaking birthday candles, and light them all. I’m going to cut myself a slice and cut one for my mom. I’ll sit back and be grateful about all that I have to look forward to and maybe cry a little about all I have to look back on. Then I’ll eat my piece of cake, and also hers.