Monday, November 28, 2011

Birthdays Are Relative

Do you remember when you were little?  Birthdays were treasured events in our lives.  We couldn't wait to get to our next birthday.  We wanted to be grown up so we could stay up late, not have to follow parents' rules, and have fun all of the time (or so we thought).  We also looked forward to presents, cake, ice cream, and maybe a party with friends.  I can remember pouring over catalogs and avidly watching commercials between cartoons on Saturday to create a list for my birthday that could also be added to for Christmas the next month.  We never lived near relatives so family parties were not a part of my personal experience from my childhood.

There is one birthday that stands out in my mind.  I was in fifth grade and lived in Miami, Florida.  I loved to go roller skating at the roller rink; so we decided to have a skating party.  We invited about 8 of my friends, got a cake with a picture of a skater on it, and I wore one of my dance recital outfits that looked like a skating costume.  I was so excited!  When we arrived at the roller rink, I couldn't believe my eyes.  A cute boy in school that ALL of us had a crush on, Stacy, was skating at the rink, too.  We invited him to join us... and he did!  It made my day!  I won't forget how special I felt or how happy I was.  My mom was great to invite Stacy.  She made this a very memorable birthday for me!

When my children were young, I always agonized over planning a birthday celebration for them.  When they were very little, it was a family celebration with presents, ice cream, and cake with the grandparents and my brothers.  When they were in elementary school, it was parties with friends and games at home, the movies, the arcade, or some other venue that fit the theme of the year.  When they were in high school, it was sleepovers with all night gaming.  When they turned 21, it was a trip to Las Vegas or a new computer depending on the interests of the child.  No matter the age: it was important to me to make these birthdays important events to celebrate the milestones in their lives.

I recently celebrated another birthday.  My birthday always falls around the Thanksgiving holiday so it may be a little different than the experience of most people.  In addition, my husband has his birthday 2 days after mine.  So it is always a very busy time between our birthdays and preparing the Thanksgiving dinner.  However, this year I took the time to think about my birthday as a separate event and started pondering the birthday experience.

I didn't want to celebrate this year.  It's not an issue with my age.  I am proud of who I am, would not want to go back in time, and have no problem with getting older.  I have earned my age and wisdom!  No, it was something entirely different.  My birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, and I knew I would be cooking all day.  I made a deal with my husband that we wouldn't get presents or cards for each other.  I wasn't sure why I felt like this, but it was how I was feeling.  So, the day came and went.  We spent my husband's birthday at a wedding; so there was no special celebration for him either.

Why did I feel this way?  I wasn't sure so I started trying to analyze my feelings and where they came from.  My husband is the one who said something that triggered my revelation.  We were talking about what we needed for Thanksgiving dinner, and I mentioned that we, of course, should have pumpkin pie.  He said that he needed a pecan pie because my mother always made one for him for his birthday.  That was when it dawned on me!  My birthday doesn't mean as much without my parents to celebrate with me.

My mom and dad always remembered my birthday!  It was important to them.  I remember when my mother had heart bypass surgery.  We were in Arizona to support my parents as they went through this scary time.  My mother was in the hospital after surgery, but she still remembered my birthday.  She told my dad to do something to celebrate it.  I will never forget my dad and brother grilling steaks and eating cake on the patio for my birthday!  With all that was going on, I couldn't believe that this was so important to my parents, but I certainly felt loved.  Parents think ahead to plan for birthdays.  This was never more obvious than my birthday following my dad's death.  Even though he died in February before my 50th birthday, I received a card signed by him on my birthday that year.  He and my mom had found a special 50th birthday card the year before and he had already signed it.  When I opened the card, I cried.  At the the the thoughtfulness.   I can never describe how I felt seeing my dad's signature.  It is a precious memory.

Birthdays (and Thanksgiving since they are intertwined for me) just aren't the same for me anymore.  I think it is because my parents, who were there when I arrived in this world, aren't here to share the day with me.  I just always feel like something is off about this time of year.  Maybe birthdays are really about the bond between parents and their children.  I think it's time to let go of my birthday and focus on celebrating birthdays of my children and granddaughter.  I think this is the natural order of life.  I now have a different place in the world.  It's time to cherish my memories but let go of the past and embrace the future.  After all, I have been well loved.  It is time to pass this legacy of love on to the next generations.  They are, without a doubt, my joy!

Have you found your joy today?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ah-h-h, It's November!

Happy November, Everyone!

I have always loved November.  Maybe it was a result of the sugar-high induced coma of Halloween, but it has always been an exciting month for me.  I know that they say that November is filled with a lot of gloomy days and that Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend, but it has always been a month of comfort.

For me, November has always been rich and vibrant!  Everything is so beautiful at this time of year.  Nature is fascinating to watch.  The trees are showing their best colors.  We have a gorgeous red maple by our driveway that is radiant right now.  It is one of the last trees to drop its leaves, and they are a feast for the eyes!  They are putting on a show for us before they hunker down for the winter.

From this...
To this!

Another part of nature that I love to watch are the wildlife.  They are so industrious during this time.  It's fun to watch the squirrels and chipmunks in our backyard as they prepare for the winter.   If you watch along the highways, you will still see red-tailed hawks on lightpoles as they watch for prey during their migration.  Canadian geese flying in formation are a common sight.  All are busy... and that is true of all of us, too!

Many of us are enjoying cooking again.  Summer was the time of grilling and picnics, salads and light fare.  Fall is filled with color and taste.  Pumpkins and squashes are appearing in many of our foods; hearty soups and crock-pot dishes simmer for hours and fill the house with lovely aromas; baking of breads, cookies, and cakes are on our minds as we peruse our fall magazines!

We are also beginning to think about Thanksgiving.  This has always been a special holiday for me.  I love the food and setting the table with fine linens, crystal, and tableware.
The table is alive with color: oranges, greens, yellows, even reds.  Traditional foods such as turkey and dressing are prepared, and families gather to celebrate this holiday together.

Family!  That's what this holiday has always been about for me.  It has always been important to be with family during this time.  Now that my parents are no longer living and my brothers are spread across the country, it feels different somehow.  We used to gather at my parents' home, and my mom and I would cook together.  I always set the table, Dad would carve the turkey, my brothers/husband/kids would sniff around the kitchen and help finish everything as we got closer to the time for dinner.  I miss those times with my family.  I especially miss the quiet times after everything was cleaned up. We were all stuffed, and we would lounge around together in the family room-just being together as a family.  The TV would be on, Dad would be in his chair, Mom in hers, and the rest of us would be scattered around the room just being!  How lovely it was!  Now it is up to me to create these memories for my family-just as my parents did.

November also seems to be a month of expectations.  This may only be true for me since my birthday is in November, but I think it is also because we know that Christmas is coming near.  I know that retailers have started earlier and earlier each year, but this is the month when they kick into high gear!  We will see Christmas decorations everywhere we go, hear Christmas songs, and see ads on TV and newspapers for great deals.

November is our transition month.  Darkness comes earlier, and it is the time for fires in the fireplace, good music, great books, wonderful food and drink and cuddling.  So be sure to take a moment for yourself, experience the beauty of the season;  relax, re-energize, and enjoy it!

Have you found your joy today?