My birthday week kicked off on Tuesday when my mom made her special birthday beef stew for dinner. You see, I love my mother’s beef stew and having it for a birthday meal sometime around my birthday has been a tradition now going on 15 years or so. It was delicious and she’s so sweet to want to make it every year for me. Of course, we have it other times throughout the year, but I know that this special batch timed around my special day each year has a little extra love in it just for me.
On Wednesday I enjoyed a lunch with one of my closest friends at my favorite Thai restaurant. We chatted about life and work, me turning 30 and we started planning some activities to do together in the fall. I love her and cherish our friendship so much.
Then the big day arrived, Thursday was the day I turned 30. I didn’t go to work so I was able to sleep in and have a leisurely morning. My mother joked about not calling too early to allow me to sleep and asked when it was “safe” to call. Around 10 a.m. I received a phone call from her wanting to be the first to wish me a happy birthday. She was. I got ready and went to her house around noon. We had made plans to meet my brother downtown for lunch at a local sandwich shop. Shockingly he had agreed to join us. It was a nice meal and a good time with just my mom and brother which hasn’t happened in a long time. Next up was a movie and then milkshakes. Mom and I decided to treat ourselves for the day. I mean you only turn 30 once right? (In reality, you only turn any age once, but it was a nice excuse anyway). Then back to Mom’s for a few presents. She had gotten me one of my favorite movies, a new CD by an artist I really like and a cute little book with sweet and funny birthday quotations in it. She had also made my favorite, a homemade chocolate cake. The final activity of the day was dinner with Mom and my on-again, off-again boyfriend at my favorite Italian restaurant. (Are you sensing a theme yet that my birthday revolves around food?) It was a great dinner which included the waitress bringing out a free dessert for my birthday. The slice of chocolate cake was enormous and plenty for three people and then some. But it was still warm and delicious. Just the perfect way to end the evening. I managed to turn 30 and not have any traumatic event take place, no arguments with anyone, my body didn’t fall apart from old age, nothing… I would say that it was a good day.
On Friday I did nothing. I had planned on having at least one lazy day during my long birthday weekend and so it was Friday. I stayed in my pajamas all day, ate leftovers from all my great meals, had some birthday cake, played with the kittens and watched movies. Lovely!
Saturday was another wonderful birthday celebration. Mom had traded in the usual tradition of several smaller gifts for one large gift in the form of a party to celebrate my 30th birthday. We know each other so well that she would have had difficulty making the party a surprise, but it was great just the same. However, there was a surprise after all and it came when I walked through the door of our church fellowship hall and found that my mother had set up several tables worth of photos and memorabilia representing my life. I felt like it was a “This is Your Life” moment. I walked across the room and looked over the tables where my old girl scout uniforms were hanging, the dress I came home from the hospital was laying along with my birth announcement and hospital bracelet, my first book bag was sitting out, a photo album containing memories of my childhood was open, announcements from graduations were set in front of graduation pictures, and many, many photos of me with those I have loved most in my life. My mom included most everything I’ve done over my last 30 years (at least everything she still had at her house – she later commented she wished she hadn’t let me take so much stuff to my house when I moved out several years ago). She had my grandparents and other family members with me, friends, even the cats that have been a part of my life. I’m not an outwardly emotional person usually but seeing this overwhelming display my mom had created and then spotting, in the middle of these precious items, a couple of pictures of my father holding me at the hospital 30 years ago, I couldn’t help it, it brought a knot to my throat and a few tears to my eyes. Oh how I miss him and wished he could have been here for this…
After I recovered from that incredible surprise, the guests started arriving. One by one they came through the door and I simply felt honored by their attendance. Each one holds a special place in my heart. Uncles and aunts, cousins, former neighbors, coworker friends, my youth discipleship leader, childhood friends, my brother and my precious niece (who turned one only five days before my birthday) all were there and all mean so much to me. All in all, around 40 people came. It was such a blessing to have them in one room for one night. I was actually fighting back tears of joy for most of the evening – again, completely unlike me. I had wanted to say a few words about how much they all meant to me and how blessed I feel to know each of them, how much they have each added to my life and thank them for all of their support, love, and friendship all these years… but the words just wouldn’t come. In the wake of emotion I couldn’t get the words out and I also forgot to thank publicly the most important person in the room, my mother, for all of her hard work putting the party together. I know it took a lot of time, effort, money and patience to pull it all into place and I am so grateful to have a mother that wanted to do it. I am so lucky. It was a wonderful night.
As I’ve thought about that evening since, I’ve realized something, not that I didn’t already know this but it has just been impressed upon me again through this event. But its those people who make my life what it is. It isn’t the stuff I buy or what I have, it isn’t the job I’m in or how many people look up to me, it isn’t power or money or hobbies… it is simply people. It is who I let into my life, who I allow to grab hold of a piece of my heart so I can carry them with me always. These special individuals that I laugh with and cry with, that I talk to, that I share memories with, that I let teach me things and open me up to experiences and interests… these people, both now and the ones that have already passed on, well, they are my life – This is My Life.