Home > Family, Love, Personal > Birthday buddies: My mom and me

Birthday buddies: My mom and me

I was my mom’s best birthday present ever. She told me this every October 30th before I turned 13.

Even when we argued, which we were wont to do after I turned 13, she made it clear I was still a great birthday present–one of the very best, in fact. Her eyes gleamed whenever she said this, as if she was barely repressing a wink.

I loved sharing a birthday with her straight through 2009. That year, I faced the likelihood that we would never again celebrate another birthday together.

That likelihood became truth when my mom died on March 4, 2010.

I spent my first birthday without Mom in the company of my dear friend Dana, who hugged me when I cried at the improbable, totally unexpected joy of seeing one of my mom’s favorite singers live.

I tried to find the silver lining on our birthday both of the following years, but it was an effort. There were so many I gifts I wanted to go back in time and give her:

Less abuse
More tender embraces
Less poverty
More freedom
Less judgment from acquaintances and passersby, who were often openly hostile to her in front of her children
More words of support
Less suffering
More resources to deal with incessant strife
Less “Why did you take so long to leave?”
More “How strong you were to leave against the odds!”
Less illness, mental and physical
More peace
Less loss
More life

A weekend blog about food banks got me thinking about these wishes again. Reflecting on it, I wrote:

I grew up one of “those people.” When my mom abashedly made the trek to food banks, it was to ensure we had SOMETHING to eat. Even if it was only cheese, rice and honey, as was sometimes the case, that something was better than nothing.

“Those people” are very, very different human beings, with very different life circumstances and backgrounds. Painting them under the sweeping brush of “those people” instead of recognizing the individuals’ strength in foregoing dignity to ensure meals is something that, to this day, makes me both angry and sad, even though I recognize the phrase “those people” says much more about its speaker than the people it purportedly describes.

After reading the blog, my sister Rachael commented:

Amazing post. Brought tears to my eyes thinking about how hard it was for mom. I wish she could have had it easier.

I thought about Rache’s words for a day. There was something I wanted to say, but I couldn’t find the words until I remembered a sweet, seemingly innocuous moment from the same weekend.

Unlike my clothes horse mom, I dislike clothing (and most other kinds of) shopping, but my sweetheart gently wrangled me into it over the weekend. Most my clothes didn’t fit me anymore, so it was something of a necessary evil, which he managed to make enjoyable.

We were waiting for our clothing to be rung up. I looked at the new jean jacket he’d found and said, “Man, my mom would be jealous of this score!”

Saying the words, I was enveloped in a sudden rush of joy. “Wait,” I told him. “It just hit me! My mom would be so happy to see me right now.”

I raised my thumb to count one. “I am clothes shopping.”

Next came my index finger. Two. “With my husband.”

Last finger. Three. “While pregnant.”

I could practically hear my mom shouting, “Hallelujah!”

It was with that moment in mind and heart that I replied to Rache’s comment:

I hear that. I still get that ache and wish I could go back and change the past for her. Then I think how she wished things would be different for us and, oh, are they ever. We can’t change the past, but we did make a different now, and it’s one Mom would be so, so thrilled to see. It’s the gift we can give her. ♥

More than birthday diamonds or roses or gold or trips to exotic lands, my happiness and my siblings’ happiness is the gift it’s still within our power to give her. Our lives aren’t without trouble today, but they are remarkably sweet, and our mom’s love will always be a part of that whether or not she is here to take a phone call.

It’s thus on my fourth birthday without a phone call from my birthday buddy that I finally write with dry eyes:

Happy birthday, Mom.
You are so loved.



  1. Jennay
    October 30, 2013 at 6:00 am

    You may have dry eyes, but I don’t. You’ve made such a difference in my life. Happy Birthday to you and to Mom.

    • October 31, 2013 at 6:08 am

      I’ll second that.

      • November 2, 2013 at 8:32 am

        I did get something in my eyes rereading it later, and reading both your comments–not just for the words, but also the love behind them. ♥

    • November 2, 2013 at 8:31 am

      Thank you, frand. 😉 That’s for a lot of things, including but not limited to this ^ comment by any means!

  2. Angelina
    October 30, 2013 at 6:02 am

    This is why I love your blog. You do so well what I strive to do everyday. You seek out, find and share the silver lining. You actively search for and locate the blessing. You remind us all that there is MORE. On this fourth birthday without your mom physically present to celebrate I hope you feel her presence within you all the more profoundly. She is a part of your every cell and you wouldn’t be you without her. Happy birthday! ♥

    • November 2, 2013 at 8:33 am

      I did feel her with me. I felt her a lot leading up to my wedding, but most of all that day, when my godmom said as she walked me toward my now husband that she could just feel my mom in all of it. I’ve misting up as I think of that, and on your uplifting words. Thank you for the birthday wishes and these loving words. I hope you have a beautiful weekend!

  3. October 30, 2013 at 6:08 am

    I read that post about food banks, too. I don’t know exactly what quinoa is.

    I hate shopping for maternity clothes. I’m glad your husband made it tolerable!

    • November 2, 2013 at 8:40 am

      I didn’t know until I went vegan (again) for a few months in late ’11. I heard it was the best thing ever, but started out with a terrible recipe that turned me off to it. I’m sure I’ll give it a try again sometime in the future, but for right now, I’m OK not eating quinoa!

      Also, reading the words “your husband” still makes me feel a little giddy. And I’m wearing some of those clothes now. I should not have to do any more maternity shopping! (Fingers crossed.)

  4. October 30, 2013 at 6:16 am

    As always, lovely! But NSFW! (Hard to talk on the phone while crying) Happy Birthday to you and to your Mom! I also read that food pantry blog, (at one time I was one of “those people” too)

    • November 2, 2013 at 8:41 am

      Thank you! The birthday itself was quiet, but it was full of love (here and offline) and could not have been better. Now I’m enjoying my birthday present from my husband: Saturday morning at a coffee shop to catch up on all the blogs I haven’t been able to read the last few months! YEAH!

  5. Madeline
    October 30, 2013 at 7:31 am

    I just wrote a big comment and it didn’t post, argh! I dreaded dumpster digging (even though there were good finds sometimes)and going to food banks with mom. I didn’t want anyone to see us, especially not people who knew us. there was a bread company that used to put day old bread under a bench by the door (inside). I tried to pretend i was flash or something, if i grabbed that bread fast enough no one would see me! (That bread was good tasting!)
    We had a little store right next to our house. one day sometime in elementary school i went next door and the owner said something like “why can’t your mom get you nicer clothes”, up to that point i’d been proud of the clothes i’d chosen at goodwill. i almost wonder if that was around the time i started to be so selfconsious about everything.
    Some of my happiest holiday memories were sponsored by others. one of my happiest christmas’s some police officers came and brought us wrapped presents (radio and we each got walkman from santa). They were so nice and didn’t seem to do it begrudgingly or look down on us. Also, one thanksgiving the oregon electric station (a prestigious local restraunt) sposored our thanksgiving. we got enough food to last a week and also a gift card. when my mom and i went they didn’t look down on us, but treated us like royalty. To this day

  6. Madeline
    October 30, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I look fondly at that restaurant, though i cant afford to eat there most often. (They cut me off, the blog)
    My church does a food bank, but they also have a back pack program so kids who eat school lunches have food on the weekends. i haven’t donated up to this point, but looking back i realize how glad i am to have had food (even though i didn’t like the process). How many families try to make that backpack last a week? we don’t know peoples stories or when we will need help. i wish more people helped instead of scoffed

    • November 2, 2013 at 8:54 am

      I love reading about your experiences with Mom. The years between us meant we had very different experiences, but of course many aspects were the same. I love picturing what you’re describing, and seeing those moments through your eyes. And I so agree with your conclusion: I wish more people helped instead of scoffing. What good does scoffing do? None. I know I don’t always do a great job turning my beliefs into actions, but I do try; I’d like to know lives were tangibly better for my touching them, not just not-worse.

      I love you, Madeline!

  7. October 30, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Dear Deborah,
    Happy Birthday. What a beautiful tribute you’ve written to your Mom, and really, how glad I am sure she would be to see you so very happy (and well dressed!).

    I empathize with you on the special and complex feelings that your birthday must bring. My family has a nasty habit of dying on major holidays. Writing this post (http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/12/02/both-sides-now/) helped me find more comfort in days I used to share with my family that I now soldier through.

    You know what they say, Life ain’t for sissies.

    • November 2, 2013 at 8:55 am

      Thank you! Also, I remember that post and loved it! I love how you took something that could have been so sad and made it both loving and, well, smile-inspiring. It’s a gift you have. 😀

  8. October 30, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Oh, my dear, sweet Deborah,
    I have not a doubt in the world your mom is celebrating with you right now. She’s cheering over a new marriage, a new jean jacket, and a new grandbaby on the way. She has received the best of all birthday gifts; her daughter’s happiness. And this year, you have given yourself a wonderful gift, the ability to celebrate the here and now as well as the past with your birthday buddy.
    Much love to you, dear friend, and a very, very happy birthday to you and your mom. xo

    • November 2, 2013 at 8:56 am

      I got something in both my eyes when I read it on my birthday, and I’m experiencing the same phenomenon right now. Thank you for your joyous, loving words, for me and my mom. You do this heart so much good.

  9. Mary Lucas
    October 30, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Just wanted to stop by to wish you a blessed birthday. I noticed your FB accounts seem to be locked down again 🙂 Peace, love and light! Love, Mary

    • November 2, 2013 at 8:56 am

      Thanks, Mary! My birthday present to myself was the gift of no Facebook. It was a delightful gift! 😀

  10. October 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    What a beautiful tribute written to your mum. Happy birthday, Deborah!

  11. October 31, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Deb, as per usual, I’ve been avoiding blogging (including reading blogs) lately, but when I come back to it, it’s consistently your posts that bring be back. Lovely, and definitely something I needed to read these days.

    Is it weird to say that I’m also very proud of you? I *heart* you, lady. Happy birthday.

    • November 2, 2013 at 9:00 am

      It’s not weird at all! I used to be really uncomfortable whenever people said they were proud of other people, but then . . . maybe six months ago, I had an epiphany about what it really meant, and I’ve embraced it since. I am touched and honored by your words, and continue to feel so blessed our paths crossed. I *heart* you, too, and am grateful for your words.

  12. November 1, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Lovely, Deb! And, Happy Belated Birthday to you! It’s so wonderful that you have such a supportive and encouraging hubby, and also a blessing to which your mom is certainly most proud. You are a star! XOXO-Kasey

    • November 2, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Thanks, Kasey! I reread my sister’s post about escaping that abusive relationship a half-year ago and just felt such a rush of love at how she described his encouragement. He didn’t just begrudgingly go, “Oh, I GUESS she can stay with us for a little while. SIGH.” He full-on encouraged her to come down while stressing our home was hers. I am so glad how very, very different my life is compared to what I thought I wanted for it. ♥

  13. Marta
    November 5, 2013 at 6:19 am

    I loved your realization that you were pregnant clothes shopping with your husband. I’m sure she would be SO happy. Happy belated birthday to both of you!

  1. February 24, 2014 at 11:20 am
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