“A Simple Celebration,” Oct. 19, 2021


How many birthdays do you celebrate in your family? My husband and I share five grown children, their “others” and nine grandchildren. At our house birthday candles burn nonstop.

My daughter’s birthday is this week. Never mind how old she’ll be. Age is only a number. She grows more lovely, inside and out, with every passing year.

I wish you could know her.

Birthdays in my childhood were simple affairs. My mother baked a cake and we ate it. No gifts, no games, no parties. The cake was good and I was happy. But I told myself, when I had children, I would make their birthdays real wingdings.

That was before I had three kids, a job, a house that defied order and a dog that shed giant clumps of hair that rolled from room to room like tumbleweeds.

So my children’s birthdays became simple affairs. I’d let them invite as many guests as we could fit into our VW van. I’d drive them to the swim center, where they’d splash and laugh and try to drown each other.

When they were totally exhausted, I’d dry them off and take them to our house to sing “Happy Birthday” and eat pizza and a store-bought cake. Then they’d all fall sound asleep on the floor under a cozy blanket of dog hair tumbleweeds.

That’s how my boys celebrated most of their birthdays. They liked it. At least, they never complained. But my daughter had her own ideas about most things, including birthdays.

Two weeks before her third birthday, she handed me a note on which she had scrawled in crayon (I couldn’t read it, so she translated) her plans for “a fancy birthday tea party.” When she saw the look on my face, she patted my hand and said, “No worry, Mama. I help.”

And help she did, with every detail, flowers, tablecloth, cake decorations, teacups (from her tea set) and even what she and I would wear. Her brothers could wear what they wanted, she said, but they had to take a bath.

It was quite a wingding, the first of many to come. She did the planning. I followed orders.

In high school, she celebrated birthdays by going out with her friends. But we still celebrated as a family with dinner and cake, laughter and love.

Why does time fly when you’re having fun? She’s all grown up now, incredibly busy, teaching school and being a mom. She makes sure her little guy’s birthdays are wingdings, but she doesn’t have time (or energy) to plan a celebration for herself.

So I will plan it for her. She never forgets my birthday. And I will always remember hers. I was there the day she was born. I had kept her to myself for almost 10 months, before delivering her into the world. Then I held her in my arms, looked into her lake-blue eyes and whispered in her ear: “I’m your mama. You’re my girl. We are going to have a good time.”

And with that, the celebrations began. Not just birthdays and special occasions. But any time we’re together. Some times are more fun than others. And there’ve been a few that we would rather not repeat.

Raising children is like raking leaves in the wind. You try to move them where you want them to go. But children and leaves have minds of their own. They love to fly on the wind. One day, the wind will stop, and they will settle wherever they land. For the child, that is called growing up. For the parent, it’s called letting go. For the leaves, it’s just called mulch.

One of life’s greatest gifts is getting to share, in good times or bad, your heart and soul and very last dime with a child you adore—to see that baby, that toddler, that middle schooler, that teenager (who aged you by several decades) grow up to be a beautiful, capable, caring adult.

We’ll celebrate my daughter’s birthday with dinner and cake, laughter and love. She doesn’t want it to be a “big deal.”

But I am her mama. And she is my girl. And we are going to have a good time.

Comments

  1. Wanda J Wood says:

    Sharon, you speak my heart at times. Precious to read your beautiful words of life events. Your writing is so “how I feel at times.” Motherhood is wonderful and a big challenge. I’m thankful I chose to be a mom. My beautiful girls and granddaughter and step-daughter are such a blessing to me. Life is full of Beauty, and my heart is thankful. My 94 year old mother communicates with me every day. What a great example she was being a mom to four children and the oldest one being a special needs child. God Bless you.

  2. Elaine mccaffery says:

    What a blessing you are to your daughter. And she is fortunate to have a mother like you. You hit home with your stories every week.I too have never had a real party all my own. Now that I’m older, it doesn’t really matter so much. It still hurts feeling I was never that special. But life goes on and you learn to go on with the way things are. I hope your daughter had a joyous celebration.

  3. CHope Hall says:

    Neither my family nor hubby’s family celebrated birthdays. When our 4 kids came along we celebrated to the max that our funds would allow. It helped us have such terrific memories. Now hubby and I celebrate our birthday weeks. Since our wedding anniversary is one day after hubby’s bd we do a lot of celebrating. Long drives this month to look at the beautiful colorful leaves is my favorite birthday present plus not having to cook unless I want. Our dau’s bd is coming along soon and she carries on the tradition. God has truly blessed us. Happy birthday to your daughter. Enjoy the time and celebrate!!

  4. Kate Sciacca says:

    Enjoy the celebration! Today was the lawyer boy’s #4’s birthday. Miss Clara Louise tuned four today… I got a pic of her waiting for her chocolate chip pancakes this morning and another of her twirling in the skirt and sweater outfit I sent…not certain she would like it. But comparing the chocolate chip pancake smile with the twirling skirt grin… I think it was a hit! She’s quite the fashionista 😂😂

    Yes, never mind how old they are… we are still, oh, fifty-something 😉😉

  5. KATHLEEN W says:

    And maybe sone tea cups.?

  6. Katie says:

    Beautiful…that’s family! So celebrate !

  7. Cathy Followell says:

    This one today caught me all thoughtful and somewhat blue and made me cry..just a bit. You said exactly the things weighing on my heart of late in just the way I would have said them had you and I been having a tea party. Our family, like everyone else I know, is going through many trials and lots of tribulation of late. Reading your wise words is always a comfort to my soul. I thank you for writing them. Happiest of birthdays to your precious daughter. I have a feeling she is much like her mama. That, my dear, is a very good thing!!

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