April is my birthday month. Happy Birthday to me. I had forgotten about it. Now let me clarify – I did remember it was in April and I remembered how much I growing up that loved my birthday because it was in the spring time and it was Easter time and I loved both. It made me feel extra special to be born in both celebrations – even if one started out very sad, horrific actually – if you believe in the crucifixion.
But even if you don’t – there are lessons learned in that story, in every story really. If its a good story you walk away with a pearl of wisdom, or a giggle, maybe even a tear. That is a good story. Sometimes you walk away thoughtful, or maybe changed –
Sometimes I walk away warm and angry. Warm because it was a good story I enjoyed reading. It became a friend waiting for me to pick it up at the end of the day and sink into the lines, let the words carry me back or forward in time. Dressed me in the fancy ball gowns, tight leotards, or naked stretched unabandoned on a beach with a tall, well-muscled fantasy. The anger came when the journey was over – I was left with a warm feeling, but nothing waiting for me the next evening. Abandoned.
My birthday. Fifty two years have passed. I remember thinking thirty was old! Now way past those years and in to unfamiliar territory. Memories of listening to my mother visit with her sisters after my grandmother had passed. She was only in her seventies but frail. A body simply worn out, by years of farm work, raising a flock of children, then their children coming to visit and overwhelm the space, the cupboards, her lap. My mother whispered “The chapter has ended, another begins and we are now next.” I didn’t understand, for days I pondered her words, until a quite moment, just her and me alone in the house and I asked what she had meant.
She smiled a sad moment, the regret in her eyes barely hidden, when she explained that when parent passed away, you were not a step closer to that passing. We all line up in life, those who were born before us, generally will die first. Having a grandparent pass away – meant that their child would most likely fulfill the next roll of grand parenting – but knowing with each passing year they will walk into heaven.
It sounded bitter sweet to me – I loved my mother with all my heart – losing her was a childhood nightmare, then an adult reality. I miss her more with each passing day. Yet she also said that her mother had missed her father very, very much. She knew they were together now – she was seeing her own parents, siblings and friends long lost. It was a reunion of sorts. Again I don’t care what you believe – I was raised Catholic – because my father’s family was Roman Catholic – done. My mother’s family was Baptist. Unequivocally the Baptists had a lot more fun in church and the most amazing feast afterwards. Prepared by dozens of grandmothers – it was down right dangerous if you enjoyed food.
My Aunt Shirley was one of my favorite Aunts related not by blood, but by love. She was chosen to be my Aunt, which in my opinion makes her pretty damn special. Shirley Goldberg. She and her husband owned the first Shop Rite in our town. As a child I rode the moving counter top near the cash register. She smelled like a combination of Channel #5 cigarettes and peppermint candy. When she hugged you it was with her entire being, you were surround by her love and there was a moment time stopped. You were wrapped in folds of brightly colored silk, and pearls in your ears. You were safe and she adored you. It was bliss.
It was not a big deal she and Uncle Phil were Jewish. Just as it was not a big deal that Uncle Andy was Greek, Mr. Gregory was an artist from the Middle East, Rudy was a black attorney, or Laura had distant relatives that were Vikings! These were all people – people with different histories and backgrounds, religions and beliefs – but when they came to my mother’s house, they were family. We ate, they drank and toasted and celebrated one another that that no other house in my home town had the diversity, conversation, homemade biscuits and laughter as our house.
There was no room for prejudice. These were people. Brought together because my mother was the epitome of a lady. She made YOU feel special, no matter who you were. She would listen, really listen and lend a hand whenever she was able. She was a volunteer at our community hospital, an artist with needle, canvas and cloth, she had sound judgment, an infectious laugh, and buckets of common sense. I think the combination of all these gifts was what drew people to her. They could come and ask her advice, or come by and talk whatever was on their mind to her heart.
So I think of her on my birthday. Knowing she will not make me another cake, or give another gift. But I can feel her spirit with me and know all the gifts I listed above were more valuable than a store bought bauble. I cannot get her back, but I can honor her memory with my actions, my stories, her art and the love she poured on me every day she walked this earth.