Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday.

Sixty three very short years ago, my wiggly little self made her way into this joyful world.

Today is my birthday.

For the first time in 33 years, I am not spending the day with my children. I think that’s a big step, and a sign of growth on my part.

As always, my kids reached out and asked, “Are we having a party or something for Mom this year?”

And I said, “Nah.”

Instead, do you know what I did to make the momentous occasion of my birth?

I went to see my Mom.

I mean, really now folks, what is more appropriate for celebrating your life than going to visit the woman who carried you around for nine months of life sucking, back aching, sleep stealing pregnancy? What’s more important than thanking the woman who spent hours of pain, more pain, wicked bad pain in order to push you out into the bright lights of your new world?

My Mom is 88 years old now. Her memory is not what we all wish it would be. She is frail in ways that shock me every week when I see her.

But she’s still Mom. She’s the woman who gave me her DNA, her time, her love of reading, her sense of humor, her temper, her recipe for red sauce and meatballs.

Mom was surprised when I arrived today with a bouquet of tulips. She’d forgotten that today was my birthday. But when I showed her the green/blue cake that her great grandchildren had made for me yesterday, she laughed. It only took a little bit of prompting to get her to retell the story of my birth, which she remembered in every detail.

She was embarrassed that she didn’t have a card for me. I hugged her, gently, and told her “You gave me life, Momma. You’re off the hook for a card!”

I don’t know if she really understands or accepts the fact that I don’t need a card of little gift from her. I hope that she does. I hope that she understand and realizes that with every trip around the sun, I am eternally grateful for the fact of her.

“Without you,” I said today, “I wouldn’t have a birthday, now would I?”

She looked at me and smiled, her familiar mischievous smile. “Dad and I did a really good job with you, didn’t we? You turned out OK.”

Happy Birthday to me.

Thanks, Mom.

Mom with her first great grandchild, my sweet Ellie.


It was so many years ago, and it all seems almost like a dream. Even so, I remember all of the sadness, the struggles, the joy. I remember it the way you remember those things that change you at the most minute level of your every cell.

More than three decades ago, when I was a young, healthy woman, Paul and I finally came to the point in our lives when we were ready and eager to start a family. We’d been to college, had our first jobs, gone off to graduate school.

The age of 30 was looming ahead of me, and I was getting anxious about putting off motherhood. After all, I was the oldest daughter in a family of six kids. I considered my own Mom, and her mother before her, to be the epitome of women who were fulfilling their life’s true purpose.

Of course I knew that times were changing, and that women of my generation were expected to have college degrees and jobs and careers. I was delighted by all of that, but I still longed for the chance to become a mother. I had fed and changed and cradled my youngest siblings, and my maternal instincts were incredibly cranked up.

So we put aside the birth control and waited for the miracle. And we waited. And waited some more. My heart became heavier with each passing month, and eventually we realized that we’d need some medical help.

My deepest and dearest wish seemed to be out of my reach.

But at last, at last, at last. Just before my dreaded thirtieth birthday, I conceived. My dream was coming true. Slowly, through those long, anxious months, I began to believe that I would finally hold my own baby.

And it happened. On January 11th, 1986, after more hours than I want to think about, my beautiful girl came into the world. I took one look at her and my heart melted into a pool of motherly smoosh.

THIS was the most gorgeous, most perfect, most lovable and loving human being that had ever been born. I immediately felt badly for every parent who had to learn how to love their inferior children.

I’m not kidding.

I was beyond in love. The smell of her cheek, the darkness of her brown eyes, the shape of those tiny lips…..all of it was completely intoxicating to both Paul and I.

At last, I was a mother. My dream had come true.

Now it is 33 years after that life-changing moment of birth. My beautiful, perfect little baby girl has become a strong, passionate, smart, funny, wonderful woman. She is a fabulous teacher, loved by her students and their parents.

She is a mother of incredible humor, grace, gentleness and love. She is a better mother than I was, and I was pretty damned good. She’s a great cook, a loyal and devoted friend, a supportive colleague. She is a political activist, a well informed and passionate progressive.

She is still a miracle to me. I am still so in love with the beauty of her smile, the shine of her gorgeous hair, the strength that I see in her interactions with her kids.

Happy, happy birthday to the incredible young woman who I still consider to be the most excellent and perfect of dreams come true.

My lovely girl with her lovely girl.

Blow out your candles, honey.



I think that every milestone is more poignant when it is reached by your youngest child.  The first step, the first word, the first day of school.  For me, every “first” for my baby was my “last first”.

Twenty one years ago tonight was a warm one, as I recall. The windows were open, and crickets were singing.

We had put our kids to bed, our Katie and our little Mattie.  She was a big girl of six, sleeping in her canopy bed, her pink and white bear in her arms. Matt was a baby still, not yet two years old, sleeping in his crib with blue pajamas on his sturdy frame.  Paul went to bed, but I stayed up for a while, resting on our pull-out couch, feeling the various aches and pains of late pregnancy.  I remember feeling very calm, very safe that night. I remember pushing a pillow behind my back and settling in to watch TV.

And I remember realizing, somewhere around midnight, that my baby was going to be making an appearance before too long.  I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, smiling at my own reflection.  “Hello, Momma.”, I thought.

This was my third birth, my third time around.  This time I felt prepared.  Unlike the other two times, I didn’t know the gender or the name of this baby.  This time I wanted to be surprised.

I remember lying on the comfy pull out, watching the stars move across the sky, listening to my body as it readied itself to give me my last baby.  I rested and dozed and waited, confident that I would know when it was time to head to the hospital. Trusting that all would be well.

I think it was about 3AM when I decided to wake Paul up and tell him that it was time to go.  I remember so clearly going into Kate’s room to wake her.  I kissed her forehead and smoothed my hand over her silky hair.  “Honey”, I whispered, “It’s time to wake up.”  I remember that she curled away from me, grumbling into her pillow, “No, Mommy. I don’t want to get up!”    I remember that I knelt beside her bed as my body cramped hard. “We’re going to have our baby tonight.”   I’ll never forget her turning, so quickly, and throwing her arms around my neck.  “Let’s go!” she cried. “I want to see my baby!”

I remember holding Matt on my lap, still half asleep, as Paul fed the dog and put her outside on her lead. I remember Katie’s excited chatter as we climbed into the car.

And I remember with perfect clarity how happy and whole I felt as we drove down the highway, into the rising sun.  Our two children fell back to sleep, and Paul held my hand as he drove.  We had Pachelbel’s Canon playing on the CD player, and the morning was quiet and blue and sweet.  We watched the sky ahead of us turn slate gray, then orange, then lemon yellow as the sun rose up to greet us.

At two o’clock that afternoon I gave birth for my third and last time.  I held and kissed my sweet baby Tim. I looked at his beautiful face, his little dimpled cheek, his tiny hands, and I felt that my life was complete.

Happy Birthday, Baby Tim.  I love you as much as I did that night twenty one years ago.  I love you as much as I did when you sat on Grampa’s lap at your first birthday party. As much as I did when I saw your first step, heard your first laugh, watched your first hockey game, handed you your first drum stick.

You’re as sweet as I knew you’d be.

Happy Birthday.