I learned long ago that, unless you're a kid, birthdays are what you make of them. That's why I carefully orchestrate my own birthday for maximum celebration. Even with careful planning, sometimes teenagers throw in a few twists that take the air from your helium balloon.
I started celebrating the night before after a basketball game when friends came over for wine.
We got to our house about 10 and I pulled the stopper from a bottle of Riesling. "To birthdays and friends, to the end of basketball season" (the boys lost their tournament game).
Spencer stumbled in from the long bus ride home, kissed me goodnight and went to bed. We continued to drink, eat pretzels and cheese puffs until after midnight, although I had expected them to leave after one glass of wine. At 11:58, they glanced at the clock, watching the minutes tick by until it struck midnight and Tisha was the first to wish me a happy birthday. Carrie and Ross followed with birthday wishes before everyone filed out the door on their wobbly way home. Thank goodness we live in a walking community.
The next morning, Earl uncharacteristically got up early, showered and went to run errands.
He returned after the boys had left for school with flowers and pastries. He visited Pistacia Vera in German Village -- Yummm -- and carefully laid out the chocolate croissant and cheese Danish with fresh raspberries. We split both in half to share. I forgot to take a photo of the pastries before we ate them and I suggested that perhaps he should replicate the patries simply for the picture. He didn't.
He gave me a very sweet birthday card that talked about all the places in the world and how he wanted to be with me. I shook the envelope upside down but no plane tickets fell out.
That's okay, though, because I didn't have time to travel the world anyway. I was meeting Sheila at Caribou Coffee. Caribou gives a free coffee for birthdays. Doesn't Sheila look gorgeous with her hennaed hair? She doesn't look like a worried woman whose 17-year-old daughter is gallivanting around Milan alone. Well, Bethany was alone until 8 this morning when Sheila sent an email that she was flying to Milan at 1 p.m. today. What? The tickets in my envelope must have gone to Sheila.
So pastries, flowers, coffee, friends -- more than enough to celebrate a birthday. Then Earl pulled out the chocolate bombe for my birthday cake. I texted the boys at school and asked them if they wanted to come home for lunch so we could all celebrate together. Earl works at 3:30 so we couldn't be together then.
Spencer said sure. Tucker said, "No thanks, but happy birthday."
Then I sent him a picture of the cake and Spencer had to turn around to pick him up. The cake had a chocolate shell and gooey chocolate mousse inside. It was so rich that I couldn't finish my piece.
Here's a picture of me with my bald boys. So strange to see them hairless, but hopefully it will grow quickly. Spencer hurried back to school and I took Tucker to the eye doctor. Why would I schedule an eye doctor appointment for him on my birthday? It was his second attempt to ease contacts into his eyes. He claims there's something wrong with his eyes that they won't open far enough. He finally mastered it after about an hour. He blinked at me and said, "Happy Birthday!" as if his accomplishment was in my honor. I think he looks like a Marine bald and without his glasses.
That afternoon, I paid for my good mothering. A good mom always wants her children to be able to confide in her. And one of my children did. That's when the helium hissed out of the balloon and the rest of my birthday thank yous sounded hollow, as my brother called and friends emailed.
Some things, mothers would rather not have to deal with.
Everyone's safe and healthy and the news just forced me to shift my mothering paradigm.
No, I'm not going to tell you. As a matter of fact, when you ask, I may be humming softly to myself, like Scarlet O'Hara: "I'll think about it tomorrow."
And that was my happy birthday.
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