I am a Christmas baby, born December 27th 1981(check the title so you don’t have to do the math). Holidays and birthdays were not a huge deal in my house growing up. My parents were non practicing Jews, my dad worked nights Sunday-Thursday, and we didn’t have any family close by. We celebrated Hanukah by turning an orange light bulb on the menorah for 8 nights every December until I was about 10. We were the family at the movie theatres on Christmas day. Christmas had no meaning to me until my parents divorced and I went to friends houses to celebrate with their families. I knew there was something special about Christmas but I didn’t know what nor did I know why we lit that plastic menorah.
Every year, 2 days after Christmas was my birthday. While my birthday was usually marked by a slumber party with friends, it was an incredibly special day because I was born on my mom’s birthday. From the ages of 16-27, my mom and I would call each other and sing happy birthday, I can still hear her voice.
So now I’m 35 and holidays and birthdays are celebrated differently in my family than they were when I was growing up. While my husband works odd hours like my dad did, we make a big deal out of these special days. We decorate our house for Christmas and have tried hard to make traditions during the Christmas season(watching certain Christmas movies and reading Christmas books, doing the advent calendar, making salt dough ornaments, using a paper chain to count down the days…) and for birthdays we make the birthday person a special meal, have a party or this year, took our oldest son on a special outing with his best friend. But for me on my birthday, there is a bit of melancholy and bittersweet memories. December 27th is still my birthday, and I am thankful to God for giving me another year here, in my cute little house, with my crazy little family, but as we drove home from the movie theatre it occurred to me that I was sad all day. It wasn’t a sit in my room alone and cry sad. It was an, I’m reading a good book and my mom would have liked it, sad. It was an, I’m having fun playing Frisbee with my boys and my mom would have loved to have seen them, sad. It was an, I’m laughing at this silly movie and my mom would have loved it, sad. And as we drove home, tears filled my eyes and I just wanted to cry, but I didn’t want to explain it to my kids so I held it all in, bottled it all up inside and felt like an unsettled volcano. I missed her so much. And then we got home for birthday cake, I got my delicious dairy free, gluten free cake that my wonderful husband baked for me and my family got my mom’s favorite cake that we buy in remembrance of her every year, a Carvel cake. And after the cakes were eaten, even though I wanted to throw in the towel and just be sad, I also wanted to treasure this time with my family. We lit the menorah and played the dreidel game, then we did our usual bedtime routine of stories and snuggles. I wanted to tap out on stories and snuggles so badly, I wanted to pawn it all off on my hubby and go take some “me” time, but God gifted me this day, these boys, this life, and I don’t want to take a moment of it for granted, especially on my birthday, my moms birthday, I wanted to live a little extra for her, even though I was so sad inside.
After I tucked my boys into bed, I snuggled up on the couch next to my hubby and said, “I miss my mom.” He simply said, “I know.” And I know he does.
I would love to have a plan for how to have a “happy” birthday, like a little checklist, I just love my checklists. But if having a “happy” birthday means not thinking of my mom, I don’t know if that is something I would want. She has been gone for 7 years, it feels like yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time.
It is weird how life changes. It is always changing. Every year as my kids get older, life is different. Tonight is New Years Eve, a time of reflection. I have thought about how the past year has gone, what I have accomplished, what I have slacked off on, what I want to do in the new year, who I want to be. The start of a new year is like a brand new start. A chance to start new habits, break old ones, begin a new chapter. The incredible thing about life is that in having a relationship with God, believing in Jesus, I know that God’s mercies are new every morning, not just at the start of a new year. But as Julie Andrews said in the Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” So when we wake up in 2017, what do you want to do differently? What habit do you want to start and which one do you want to break? Last year I decided that instead of resolutions, I would make goals, I will share some of mine with you… write a book, read the bible from cover to cover, finish that hook rug that I started long ago, do needlepoints for Logan and my nieces Ella and Eden, finish those baby albums, be a quiet person, and my biggest one, which was really hammered into my stubborn brain today(another story for another day) is to be content. Because even though I don’t have everything I want, I have everything I need, and that is enough.
Happy New Year.