A few weeks after my mother died, I had a birthday. Birthdays have always been special to me. My birthday is the only day in the whole year that I allow everything to be all about me. Long ago, I stopped looking at my birthday as a commemoration of another year passing. Instead, I look at it as a kind of holiday. It’s Terri Day- the day the world (or at least any portion of the world that so desires) celebrates the unique wonder that is me! That may sound conceited, but it isn’t really. I don’t limit my birthday philosophy to myself. I think everybody’s birthday should be about celebrating that person’s individual, special awesomeness. What difference does it really make if you are another year older, when all is said and done? On the other hand, what a wonderful difference it truly does make that the world is filled with awesome people who are amazing for so many different reasons!
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel celebratory when, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t sharing my birthday with the woman who birthed me. I say that my birthday has always been “all about me.” That isn’t entirely accurate. Part of that “all” has been all about my mother and me. That very first birthday was the beginning of the very special bond we’ve shared over the past 58 years. I’ve always bought my mother a present on my birthday. After all, my mother was the one who did all the work the day I was born. All I did was show up.
I almost felt like skipping my birthday this year, but my current obsession with busy-ness and distraction forced me to find something special to do that day. Max and I returned from a trip to Las Vegas on September 28 and we visited Disney Springs to celebrate my birthday on September 30. Now, normally, I would not visit Disney Springs on a Saturday when hordes of people walk the earth, but I was pretty committed to celebrating on the actual anniversary of my birth. Max made a few half-hearted attempts to convince me to juggle my birthday celebration to another, non-weekend day. He soon realized that idea was a total non-starter. He ultimately embraced the idea and set out to ensure I enjoyed a special birthday- different from all previous birthdays because my mother wasn’t with us, but special in a new way.
For several days before, during, and after my birthday, Max walked around calling me the “birt-day girl.” He greeted me every morning by calling out, “Happy Birthday.” He sang to me on the gondola at the Venetian Casino during our vacation, which was amazing. Max doesn’t really sing and lives in terror of standing out of the crowd in public. Yet, there he was, singing to me. Without benefit of alcohol, even. The fact that he was singing to me in front of a gondolier and a couple of strangers and anyone who happened to be able to hear him in the fake Piazza San Marco truly demonstrated the extent of his effort to delight me. It touched me deeply and I think I found a way, after knowing him for almost 22 years, to fall even more in love with him.
A few months ago, part of me realized that my mother was likely not going to be alive when my birthday came. I purchased a necklace and paid for it from one of her accounts. I gave it to Max to save so I’d have one last birthday present from my mother. The morning of my birthday, he brought it out and fastened it around my neck. The necklace is a diamond and silver butterfly. The body of the butterfly consists of two interwoven open-heart designs. I chose the butterfly motif because it reminds me that my mother, like a butterfly, is reborn to live in beauty and joy in Heaven. I chose the double open heart design because my mother is the one who taught me to live my life striving to love and to be loved.
When we got to Disney Springs, we went to Starbucks and had a beverage accompanied by a pumpkin scone. As we walked around the shops, I found a pair of earrings that fascinated me. Max surprised me by buying them for me. We had a late lunch at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try. My mother used to keep a stash of what she called her “hidey hole” money- about $400 in cash that she kept at home in case of emergency. I took some of that money to pay for my birthday meal and the Sprinkles cupcake I bought to take home. Later that evening at home, I put a candle in the cupcake and Max sang “Happy Birthday” to me.
I also received beautiful cards, texts, and gifts from my brother and from friends all around the world. It was as if the Universe knew that this was going to be a tough birthday for me and wanted to provide a little additional emotional padding against the buffeting my heart was likely to take.
You can see I ended up having a lovely birthday, even though I was kind of dreading it. It was a special day, even if my mother wasn’t there to share it with me. Then again, maybe she was. And maybe she always will be.
How do you like to celebrate your birthday? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have an extra special day, whether it happens to be your birthday or not!