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Happy Birthday Mom...TBT


I used to love May 28th. For so many years it was a happy day. It came right when spring was really getting pretty, with the trees blooming and flowers popping up all over.  My Mom's favorite early flowers were the pussy willow and forsythia. Whenever she saw a forsythia bush trimmed it would drive her crazy because it had more sticks than blossoms.  They were meant to grow wild she said.  I agree.   Then came the lilac's and they grew wild everywhere when I was growing up.  The purple and white were the only colors available back then and the smell was just as gorgeous then as it is now. To this day, I love the lilacs more than any other spring flower and yes, just the scent of them reminds me of my Mom.  She picked, cut and stole them from any bush she could reach.  There was no Trader Joe's for flowers and even if there was, there was surely no money for the wild lilacs were a gift for May, her birthday month. 

You would think that after fourteen years of her being gone that I would be over the longing of wanting to see her one more time, to spend one more day with her and tell her all the things that I miss now that she is gone..and also to tell her that I better understand now her struggles and hardships.  Life was so difficult in the early 40's for young people, military families in particular.  I was able to visit the place where my Mom and Dad got married in Seattle Washington this past fall and it was amazing to me how brave and strong she was. You can read more about that trip here.  I wish I could tell her now, that I think she had more courage than I would ever have but I didn't get this wise about her until she was gone.  That saying, better late than never...not always true..I think more to the point would be...say what you have to say now because you don't know when never is.

For so many years my Mom was lucky if she got a cake on her birthday and I can honestly tell you that I don't remember if she did.  I'm hoping it's just a faded memory and of course my Grandmother would have made her a cake.  I hope she did.  My Mom never took much for herself.  I don't think she could have even if she wanted to with four kids to bring up and a job as a clerk in a drug store and I don't think my Dad was making big bucks in the Military being a Staff Sargent.  Maybe early on those stolen lilacs were the gift she gave herself and who could deny her the scent of flower in disguise of a perfume she would never have from a bottle.  So as we grew and got jobs, we, her kids, started buying her small gifts.  I think she treasured everyone of them.  They were mere trinkets in the scheme of life but to her they were gifts, wrapped up in cut-up paper bags and tied with twine.  

What I remember most was after I got married, I would look forward to her birthday.  Now I could buy her proper gifts, girly gifts, wrapped in real wrapping paper and ribbon.  Sorry, no gift bags back then.  I would delight in giving her things that she never had, simple things like clothes, books (which she loved) and dinner out.  Oh how she loved that...she would dress up like it was an extravagant event, and for her it was. Sometimes I would give her gift certificates to her favorite store and then when my brother started his own business as a jeweler, he would give her jewelry.  She was almost afraid to take it.  She was overwhelmed by the richness of the gifts that we gave.  She didn't want us "wasting our money" on her...but I don't think she ever got the joy that we felt in giving to her...even though we learned that joy from her.  She gave us whatever she had. It was always us first.  She couldn't grasp the fact that we could afford to be giving to her. I remember the day I bought our house on the Lake she was so afraid for me.  That I wouldn't be able to afford it and Jim and I would lose it because it was to much money, the kind of money that she couldn't imagine.  Of course we knew we could afford a second home but to her she thought we were both having a mental break-down of some it was so much fun to give to her...

I think about those days now, I think about if she were here now or if she had lived a few years longer than what she did, how much more I could have done for her.  Although we took her on many vacations, I would have loved to have taken her, one more time, to her home in Nova Scotia. To the place where her Mom and Dad were from.   I would have taken her to dinner every week, not just once in awhile.  I could have given her a closet full of clothes but my guess is that she would have been so overwhelmed she would have saved it all as "her best" clothing for special days.  I would have taken her for manicures and pedicures.  I know she never had either of those and I would have taken her to Boston more.  She loved theater and plays.  I know that because every Christmas I took her to see Dickens Christmas Carol at the small local theater here. Now that was real dress-up event...break out the jewels Dick, she's going to the theater.  So many things, I didn't get to give her.  So much time wasted in bitter arguments before healing came to us.  Now, so many springs gone by...I miss the thrill of stealing with what if they were only flowers, it was still kind of fun to break the stems, toss them to each other and run like crazy...I loved that as a kid.  

The list could go on and on of what gifts I could have shared with her but in truth...those gifts are not the gifts that she would even have wanted.  I know my Mother well enough to know what gifts matter most to her, what gifts she would have loved to hold in her hands.  She would have wanted the gifts of more time with her son, the one she lost the year before we lost her.  She would have wanted to know that the 3 left behind are all doing well and honor her as best we can by making her proud of where we stand today.  She would have loved to watch her grandchildren grow and get married.  To know that my son is on his chosen path because of her living and then dying.  Her love for him was overwhelming and he used that love to give to others in his own way...knowing that nothing is permanent.  Jenna also would have made her day with her joy and outright laughter and being strong and successful in her own right.  The most special gift from Jenna though would be the gifts of Liam and Jaxson...she would have loved to have held those babies and watched them grow. She would have loved the goodness of one and the naughtiness of the other, both with hearts full of joy and cheeks made for kissing. I somehow have to believe though, that from her soft pillow in the universe she watches over all of her gifts...and she is saying "what more could I want ?"  Her answer would be, "nothing more." Finally, she has the gift of acceptance and validation, that her life had meaning and purpose and lots of love.  What more could one ask for as they skid into heaven...but acknowledgment for a job well done...a life lived to the best of their ability and at times with great sacrifice.  She did the best that she could do with what she had. She leaves behind, even to this day warmth and a genuine attitude of having all that she ever needed and that our expectation today of all that we tend to gather would just be foolishness to her. She was smarter than I gave her credit for.

So Happy Birthday was a hella of a ride.  I'm down here stealing the Lilac's for you..and smelling your beauty...every spring...just as you would expect me to...and May 28th is going back to being special once more.  A day that I can again love..because I'm the keeper of your gifts.  I truly hope someone up there is baking a cake for you...because that is one thing you always loved...even for breakfast..


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Reader Comments (12)

Oh Cheryl, this brought tears...a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman, inside and out, just like you. I have no doubt that your mom's spirit lives on through you, your children and beautiful grandchildren. Hugs to you you, my friend and Happy Birthday to your Mom. xo

May 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

so beautiful Cheryl and you never said a word yesterday.

May 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeg

Thank you Susan for your thoughtful and heartfelt writing takes on a life of it's own photography, I start with one photo in mind and end up with an entirely different photo...writing is the same...i never know where the story will go or how it will end...I just go with the first spark and see where I land...but it's all from the heart...have a great weekend.

May 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

Peg...thanks for the visit and support...and yesterday, well I wanted it to be about you and Anne...that's the way it should writing came later...Thank you again for taking the time to come and see was a wonderful day and the perfect day to be with you...xox

May 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

Always so heart felt and moving to read your feelings about your relationship with your mom.
Happy Belated Birthday to her!
But hasn't Jim planted a lilac bush for you yet!?! hahaha!
I have a small tree in front . . . as the one I used to visit is now on condo property!
But I, too, used to enjoy those little snip snip days!
Always so much love to you, my dear friend.
xox Antoinette xox

May 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAntoinette

I don't know what to say. My heart is full to bursting at the beauty of this post and the love it expresses so tenderly. You are making your mother proud.

May 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSherry

Such a beautiful and touching post Cheryl!
What a wonderful tribute from a daughter to her loved mother for her birthday!
What a heartful portrait of a loving mother whose life was devoted to her kids!
I can imagine the love you felt and still feel today for your mother through your moving writings...
Beautiful pictures of her as a young girl and as a young mother with her kids... such muted nostalgia in these family pictures.

May 30, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterodile lm

What a sweet and wonderful tribute to your mom.

May 31, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpam (sidewalk shoes)

Happy Birthday to your Mom. It breaks my heart to think that the pain of loss doesn't get much easier. Women who grew up in that era were remarkable. My Mom would have been in her mid teens to twenties. It really is incredible what they had to do to survive. And yes they were amazing! Thinking of you Cheryl and I feel your pain!

May 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Thomas

I'm beside myself Cheryl, reading this for the second time, because I couldn't contain it all the first time, and I still can't. You truly have a beautiful writing talent, and very deep love-filled heart. You brought back memories as I read how your mom had a tough parents reminded us many times, how we should be very thankful for what we had, because they had so very little. They both worked hard to give my sisters and I a better life than they had...many kids, little money, worked and lived off the land. But, love is what brought them together, and your mom had a lot of love to give, as do you! Happy Birthday to your mom! xx

July 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly

Oh Cheryl how I feel your pain although it is much more new for me. It saddens me to think even wth the passage of time it doesn't get easier! Your mother sounds like a selfless incredible woman!

August 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Thomas

Cheryl, I printed this blog post and read it out loud to my husband. We both agree - your heartfelt words came as a blessing to us, at this time, just as we are caring for our aging mothers, both widows. I loved every word your shared about your mother. Mostly, I am glad that we live long enough to come to realize the sacrifices that every parent makes, and that even when things are not perfect, they are still worthwhile. A convergence of things, and this post is one them, has given me the confidence to work through some issues with my mother and begin to photograph her, her home, and her life in a way that not only will give us sweet memories, but gives us sweet times together - right now, this day. Thank you a thousand times over!

August 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

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