Happy Birthday to Me

I turned 36 on Sunday, and after fifteen years of marriage, eleven of them with children, my husband finally figured out what to get me for my birthday: a little peace and quiet. So, after fixing berry-filled crepes smothered in Nutella and whipped cream for brunch, he lovingly kicked me out of the house to spend the afternoon by myself at the pool. With no sunscreen to apply to ticklish, little limbs, no swim diapers to manhandle off wet, squirming babies, and no threat of being splashed, squirted, or flipped, I relaxed into my raft to enjoy a few hours of sun-kissed solitude.

After about twenty minutes, as I floated around the pool, alone, I felt the urge to talk to someone. I didn’t speak to many people that morning because I was too preoccupied in the church nursery, changing a few extra diapers, crawling around the floor like a horsey, holding other people’s irritated children. Even my dad and his wife were gone when I showed up at their house later, the key to the pool hanging in its usual spot, welcoming me to enjoy their oasis on my own.

I was tempted to call home, to check in with Scott, to hear from one of the girls, to lie and say I was interested in the score of the women’s World Cup soccer game, but I resisted. I forced myself to turn off my cell phone instead and enjoy some rare time to myself. So I lounged a little. I read a bit. I even worked on some curriculum planning for next year. But I still felt out of touch, as if the world was going on without me.

I know I’m probably too old to care about my birthday. It’s just another day on the calendar, like Flag Day or next Tuesday. But for most of my life, July 10 has always been kind of special. A day full of fanfare, being fussed over, cake.

But then I became a mother. Now much of my time and energy is spent on their birthdays, reminiscing their births, planning their parties, communicating to them in big and little ways all day how much I love them. I didn’t really notice the subtle, indirect relationship between their birthdays and mine, how theirs have grown in importance while mine has diminished, until I talked to my mom. She’d called me, texted me, and posted three messages on Facebook for my birthday, but because I’d silenced my phone, I never got them until the next day.

So, while driving to Rainey’s art camp on Monday morning, I dialed her number.

She answered immediately, even though the time difference meant she was still tucked in bed, and asked if I’d had a nice birthday. I told her yes, that Scott treated me to a quiet afternoon followed by a simple family cookout. Then she asked if I’d heard from my brother, Ben, and when I told her no, we wondered how a twin brother could forget his sister’s birthday. True, our birthdays are on two different days – I was born just before midnight, he was born an hour later – but it still seemed odd for him not to call. We laughed about it, finding humor in how priorities and perspectives change as we get older, and then my mom described how she’d spent the previous day. Turns out, while I was wading, my mom was celebrating, thinking about me all day, thanking God to be alive for another year of my life, and as she put it on Facebook, “praise[ing] Him for the gift she is to me and to the world.”

As she went on, I thought of this verse:

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less (John 3:30).

And it made me think of my mom, who was filling the airwaves between us with words of affirmation. Like John the Baptist, she’s a lovely picture of humility, accepting with all her heart and working with all her might the job God has given her to do, mainly being a mom. For 36 years, she has loved me sacrificially, put my needs ahead of her own, and in doing so, given me an excellent example of how to do the same for my children.

We talked for several more minutes, and when we hung up, I had a text from my brother, Ben.

Just realized that today is my birthday…which would have made yesterday yours, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

Apparently, his two daughters were returning from a week away from home and he was too busy planning their homecoming to bother looking at the calendar. And though I gave him a good teasing about it, as all twin sisters should, I’ve never been more inspired to forget my own birthday – and his – than I was that day.

Comments

  1. Am speechless but far from tearless. I love you my favorite daughter!
    <3 Mom

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