Tag Archives: birthday celebrations

Birthday Sugar

Dear Mom,

When I was with you a few weeks ago, you and I ate cupcakes I’d bought in the bakery section at the grocery store.  You savored each bite, and we laughed as we brushed away crumbs and licked our fingers.  As I wiped your mouth you smiled and asked, “Is it somebody’s birthday?”

I didn’t tell you it was almost my birthday because, actually, it didn’t matter.  I was with my mom, and we were eating cupcakes together and laughing.  When a daughter celebrates like this with her mother, on some level it is a celebration of both their births.

Several days later, two days before Jim and I left to drive back to Colorado, he and Molly planned a special birthday dinner for me at a Japanese restaurant in Salina.  We sat around a big U-shaped table, watching in amazement as our chef flipped vegetables and meats on the sizzling grill in the center.  As a grand finale, in celebration of my birthday he put a big onion (why an onion?) on the center of the grill, squirted it with something very flammable, struck a match, and poof! it flared like a Roman candle.  As everyone sang Happy Birthday, I looked at the precious wide-eyed, amazed faces of my grandchildren (your great-grandchildren, Mom!), and the wonderful, much-loved faces of my husband, our daughter and our son-in-law, and I thought, “It doesn’t get better than this.”  Everyone was together, happy and healthy and hopeful, celebrating life.

It reminded me of the tradition we had for birthdays as I was growing up.  Birthday breakfasts often included something special–maybe Eggs A’la Goldenrod, cinnamon toast, or a donut from the bakery–or it was something simple and fast because it was a school day and we didn’t have time for anything too special.

It was at dinner that night when you fixed our favorite meal.  For David, I remember he liked shrimp for his birthday dinner, which was no small deal in Kansas in the 50s.  My choice was usually your meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and canned mandarin oranges and chunked pineapple, which made it seem like a really big deal.  I always loved your meat loaf, Mom, and while we ate dinner, the dessert waited over on the counter: a birthday cake, my cards and presents.  For a kid growing up in southeast Kansas, having such a birthday celebration on a school day, trimmed with cake and presents and laughter around the table, well, it just didn’t get any better than that.

You started the tradition, Mom.  Birthdays are celebrations of life, and the cake is the sweet reminder to be grateful that we’ve been blessed with another year.

The love and laughter of family and friends around the table, and the memories of others we hold in our hearts, are the icing on the cake, sugary sweet, rich with the reminder that nothing is better than a birthday.

Thanks, Mom, for then and for now.

Love, Marylin

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Filed under birthday traditions, Cooking With Mom, memories for grandchildren

Best Friends

Dear Mom,

I can always tell when one of the young nursing students has taken a shift as your caregiver.  The tell-tale sign is the glittery polish on your fingernails.  When I take off your shoes and socks to get you ready for bed, your toe-nails are painted, too.

If I say how pretty your hands and feet look, usually you squint and seem confused.  You give a little smile and shrug, unsure.  Other times you wiggle your fingers and laugh.  “My friend did it,” you say, and then you add, “She’s my best friend…I think.”

I don’t ask you who “she” is.  I’ve learned that statements give you assurance, while questions are confusing.  I hold your hand, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the shiny polish.  Then I say you must have a very nice friend who chooses such a pretty color, and you suddenly are a school girl, wowed by your fancy fingers.  Proud to have such a friend, whoever she is.

Oh, Mom, you have had many friends.  Dad always said that you never met a stranger, and your mother, my grandmother, told me that even as a child you had the kindest heart and sweetest smile.

I remember the many women–and sometimes even my girlfriends–who trusted you with their secrets and sorrows, and how you embraced them in warm hugs and assured them you’d be praying for them.  You were a peacemaker, Mom, a gentle advisor, and a friend to so many.

For your ninety-third birthday, your granddaughter Molly brought your great-grandchildren Grace and Gannon for a celebration.  It was a long drive for them, so they bought the decorations and the ice cream cake when they arrived.  You fell asleep while eating the cake.  Six-year-old Gannon watched you sleep.  He gave you a sweet kiss and whispered to Molly, “Oh, Mom, she’s so cute.”  On their way home, they stopped by the cemetery.  Seven-year-old Grace read the details on Dad’s side of the headstone.  Your name in on the other side, and beneath your names is engraved the truth of your long marriage to Dad:  “Best Friends Forever.”

Grace put her hands on her hips and turned to her mother.  “I thought they were married,” she said.  You and Dad would have laughed at that; you would have hugged your great-grandchildren and told them stories about two Missouri teens who met and fell in love, and truly were each other’s best friends…even though they were married.  You wowed Dad with your faith, Mom, your patience and kindness and strength.  Fingernail polish had nothing to do with it.

You’re a great role model for your daughter, your granddaughter, and your great granddaughter.  Your great-grandson, too.  He thinks you’re very cute, and he gave you a kiss.

I love you, Mom.   Marylin

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Marriage