Mom always loved snow. Every year she’d pray for snow on her birthday. Four years ago I remember sitting in her kitchen with her on her birthday hoping for a few snowflakes in case she didn’t make it another year. A couple minutes after I said my silent wish, snow began to fall. Only for a couple minutes, but it was enough to make her happy.
Today was Mom’s birthday. Dad and my siblings and I went out to eat at one of Mom’s favorite diners. I got off work at five and met them there where we enjoyed a quiet dinner talking about our everyday lives, the new things going on, and of course, talking about Mom. My nephew was there, too, and we laughed as he licked the ketchup off his fries and threw a balled up napkin at my brother’s head while he was talking. (He’s only a couple years old, so he gets forgiven quite easily.)
This morning my best friend, a girl I’ve grown up with since fourth grade, text me to let me know she was thinking of me on this particularly hard day. It was a strange day. I went to work, wishing I could call Mom and tell her, “Happy birthday, birthday girl!” Wishing I could hear her giggle and the sound of her smile over the phone. I would’ve went to visit her after work, brought her a present, a card, and we probably would’ve gone out to dinner.
I probably would’ve given her hints about her Christmas gift. I always tried to get her something really awesome for Christmas. One year it was the Big Love box set because she was obsessed with that series. Always making sure she watched every episode, keeping me updated. Instead we sat around the table reminscing. We ate, laughed a little, and wished we had brought pictures of Mom to have with us, but for one reason or another we all forgot.
I thought about past birthdays, not just hers but all of ours, how special she tried to make them. I’m sure if you’ve kept up with the blog you recall my post about my own birthday in September — gosh, it seems so far away now. When I turned 16, I was walking home from the bus stop wondering how Mom was feeling, selfishly wondering if she’d been okay to do anything for me. I wouldn’t have been mad if she hadn’t, but deep down I hoped, since everyone always made a big deal out of “sweet-16s” that she’d maybe baked a cake or something. When I approached the front door I saw she’d hung a paper plate on the front door that read Happy Birthday in permanent marker, her elegant scrawl taking up nearly the whole plate, and complete with several exclamation points. I smiled and walked in the front door, disappointed when I didn’t see her. I figured she was resting, which meant she wasn’t feeling well. But in fact, no, she was in her bedroom wrapping my gifts.
I don’t remember what she got me that year, and in fact I don’t remember what she got me for most of my young birthdays, because it wasn’t about the gifts. It was about her. It was one day of the year where I knew that no matter how sick she was, she’d try to make it special. I knew she’d smile and laugh and hug me and make it all about me — I don’t mean that to sound as self-centered as it does. But it was just the way she was, trying to make everyone feel special on their own special day. If I wanted to go to the movies, we’d go to the movies. If I wanted to play video games, we’d play video games. She always made time, always baked a cake (or, in her later years, purchased one from the store.)
Birthdays symbolized normalcy for me. It was the one day where I could forget that she was as sick as she was because for a while, for a few hours, things were just normal.
Today, I couldn’t make her feel just as special as I always tried. Today was full of sadness, probably more so than on my own birthday. Especially with Christmas, which was her favorite holiday, being right around the corner. Even Dad said he’s not into Christmas this year with her not being around, while I, on the other hand, actually decorated the outside of my house for the first time in my life. More so as a tribute to her, I suppose, since she loved to decorate for Christmas. So much so that she kind of ended up leaving the decorations up all year.
There was one thing that I think kept us all going today, though. This morning we all woke up to the same sight outside our windows; beautiful, fresh, glistening snow. The first snowfall of the season, and it just so happened to fall on Mom’s birthday.
Happy Birthday, birthday girl. I love you.