Today's my birthday. I'm keeping it very low key. Keeping to myself all day. No cake. No celebratory toast. No presents. It's always seemed to me that my birthday wasn't just my day, but a day I shared with my mother. Really, one's birthday is the day that brings home the mother/child relationship, isn't it? Without her, there would have been no birthdays, at all, for me. And, yes, I know fathers count, too. But father's don't give their unborn babies a home to live in for nine months. And fathers don't go through unspeakable pain as they push us into the world. I'm here because of my mother. Because she loved me. Because she wanted me.
My mother loved all three of her children. My older sister was born when my mother had been married just over a year, and hadn't quite turned 20. 18 year olds do not plan pregnancies. In those days, a married 18 expected to become a mother, but she didn't plan on it. In those days, it was more about letting the chips fall where they may. My parents were happy to have their first baby. Thrilled, in fact.
My younger sister came as a big surprise. My mother had always said she'd have no more children after age 30. When she was 29 she found herself pregnant. She was surprised. My dad was surprised. Everyone was surprised. That baby just made the threshold and she made everyone happy. I was old enough when my sister was born to remember all of this: how surprising the pregnancy was, how fun it was to have a new baby when no one really expected any more babies to come our way.
I was in the middle. I asked my mother, one day, about the circumstances of my birth. I'd been planned, she told me. The only one she'd actually planned. She and my father wanted more than one child, and wanted their first child to have at least one sibling. They'd planned for me and wanted me and I had not been a surprise. It meant a lot to me to hear this. It means something still.
The fact that I was planned may have something to do with the fact that my mother and I shared an incredibly tight bond, right until the very end. It might also have something to do with the fact that I was the one my mother chose to give her mother's wedding ring to, and then her own wedding ring. I'm the middle child. I'm unmarried. I'm a lesbian. I have no children. I will never have children. And my mother wanted her wedding ring, and her mother's wedding ring, to end up with me. She was very much alive and of sound mind when she gave them to me. She wanted no mistake to be made. I cannot describe how much this gesture meant to me - still means to me. I treasure those rings. They lived on the fingers of the two most important people in my life. The women who gave me life, nurtured me, gave me my first taste of coffee, passed on their sense of humor and love of story-telling to me. My idols. My best friends.
And so, today is my birthday. But how can I possibly have a birthday when my mother isn't here to share it with me? It shouldn't be my day. It's our day. The day she gave me the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. The day of our first parting...of the first time this baby left the only home she'd ever known.
Thanks, Ma. For life. For everything. My birthday will never be as sweet as it used to be.