"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
My 54th birthday is looming large this week, and honestly, I would skip it if I could. . . It seems so wrong to celebrate a day without her that is only possible because of her. My first birthday without her. I didn't expect it to feel this way. I never really thought about how birthdays would feel without her. It is not the first sad birthday I've had, and it won't be the last, I'm sure, unless I die before the next sad one ;-) Amidst the tears of having a birthday without her, I'd love to celebrate this week, all the birthdays I had with her. . .
Mama grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who had grown up during the Great Depression. Frugality and simplicity were the fabrics of her life growing up. Birthdays in our house were not often full of presents and abundance or frills, but they were always special.
Every birthday we got to choose our favorite meal for dinner. Usually, mine was chicken and pastry. It was a family favorite and another testament to Mama’s excellent cooking. Soft, tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken with a rich flavorful broth and clouds upon clouds of fluffy white pastries (Some call her style dumplin’s, but we always called them pastry.) It was always served alongside mounds of white rice to soak up all the thickened chicken juice. Usually a veggie rounded out the meal -- sweet peas or green beans or something green (often from our garden via the freezer).
And there was always cake. When I was in middle school maybe, Mama took a cake decorating class, so for a few years, we had very fancy cakes! Cakes shaped like Mickey Mouse and decorated to the hilt to make it look just like him -- cakes with beautiful roses, and all kinds of beautiful decorations. Sometimes, it was family favorite cakes -- like carrot cake -- or, for me, pineapple upside down cake. Whatever the flavor, and whatever it looked like, Mama’s cakes always had the most important ingredient -- LOVE!
There were also always cards -- carefully chosen and lovingly signed -- sometimes in Mama’s handwriting; sometimes in Daddy’s, but always a beautiful sweet card full of love.
Sometimes, we had parties. Certainly not every year -- and not the ornate events of today’s kids. Second grade, I think, Mama planned a party for Dale (my younger brother) and me together (both our birthdays are in February-- his the 2nd and mine the 24th) So we had our party right around Valentine’s Day -- we had heart-shaped candies and our friends came over to play and bring presents. (I remember particularly a Play-Doh Fun Factory that year -- it was well-used! :-) It was a rare treat to have a party and took a lot of extra effort and expense on Mama’s part, and looking back I really appreciate those efforts.
Also, in second grade, I remember Mama taking me to birthday parties of friends as well. That was a special treat too! I remember attending Greta’s birthday party in Sunset Terrace where we played croquet and Greer’s birthday downtown where we played musical chairs and I was enthralled because her house had an UPSTAIRS! None of that would have happened without Mama’s willingness to get a little gift and haul me over to a friend's house.
As we got older, we were able to plan our own parties, and Mama tried to help and accommodate us if she could. When I turned 16, I had a big party at our house -- a sleepover for the girls. I still have a picture of about 6 of us piled up in the bed under the covers. I don’t remember all that we did (although I think I remember Kim losing her contact down the sink), but I have very fond memories of the party itself and Mama’s help and willingness to make it happen.
She and Daddy allowed me to plan an 18th birthday party in “the barn” (upstairs play area for Dale and me above Daddy’s workshop downstairs in a log barn Mama and Daddy had built.) I invited all my friends and we celebrated big for my 18th!
As we grew into adulthood, birthday celebrations continued and morphed. At some point, we began having family oyster roasts to celebrate Dale’s and my collective February birthdays. We would buy a bushel of oysters, which required copious rinsing and scrubbing to get the ocean-y grunge off. Mama would scrub and rinse, and then direct our scrubbing and rinsing, until we got enough cleaned that she could begin to cook them. She would fill every big pot and pan full of clunky gray oysters and roast or steam them to salty perfection. Sometimes she would fry some fish or shrimp alongside -- or make hushpuppies. Sometimes it was just oysters and saltines. She was always ready to help us with those stubborn shells that wouldn’t release -- either wielding her knife or throwing it back in the pot to coax it open. Finally, Dale confessed, after years of doing birthday oyster roasts, that he didn’t really care for oysters, so we gave up that tradition, but those are special memories!
Birthdays may not have been elaborate affairs, but they always came with love and effort on her part to make it a special day in some way or other.
One thing is for sure, birthdays will never be the same again.
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!
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