Happy birthday, Mom!
Last Friday, my mom celebrated her 50th birthday. Let me tell you something about my mom –– she is not the kind of person you can fool easily.
She loves figuring out planned surprises before they happen. One year, she figured out that the Christmas presents were being kept in the trunk of her family’s car. So of course she waited until her parents were asleep, popped open the trunk, opened all her gifts, rewrapped them and snuck back into the house.
Her intuition isn’t limited to special occasions. Even when she has no reason to know something is happening, she knows. She just knows. That’s why we were so nervous about throwing her a surprise birthday party this year. Gideon and I planned to drive in and surprise her at the party, but I couldn’t help but feel like she knew we were coming.
The weeks leading up to the party felt interminable. Every new plan came with a new opportunity for Mom to figure things out. My nana and I were being pretty sneaky for two notoriously bad liars, but I was still nervous. For once in my mom’s life, we wanted to pull off a big surprise. We wanted her to have no idea what was going on.
The day finally came and I was ecstatic to see so many people show up to honor my mom. So many of my great-aunts and uncles, as well as long-time family friends, filled the room waiting for Mom to walk through the door. At last it happened. Gideon and I hid at the back while everyone yelled out, “Surprise!” and “Happy birthday!”
Then I led the way to the front, and Mom looked like she had just seen a ghost. She jumped back, embraced me in a hug and sobbed. Later on, she described her reaction as “maybe the ugliest cry ever.” But there was nothing ugly about that cry to me. It was full of love and joy –– the kind of joy that makes you lose all control of yourself. That doesn’t happen often for anybody, so you can imagine how wonderful it felt to see my mom react that way.
For her birthday, Gideon and I gave Mom an album full of photos from her life so far. Selfishly, I must admit it was a gift for me, too. I loved putting it together and seeing photos of my mom I had never seen before. My favorite shows her in a bikini smoking a cigarette at the Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic, the sun illuminating her bleach-blonde hair.
“I really thought I was hot stuff,” she remarked when she saw the photo.
Maybe I’m biased, but I think she’s still hot stuff. She’s always been hot stuff. She raised me on her own and I’m sure it wasn’t always easy. She must have had days where she felt like she couldn’t do it anymore, but she never showed that to me. She always made sure I felt loved and wanted. That’s what every child deserves but not what every child gets. I feel so lucky to have a mother who told me she loved me every single day, no matter how she was feeling at the time, from the very moment I was born.
One thing I’ve realized as an adult is that our parents aren’t superheroes. We grow up thinking they can do no wrong –– that they have everything under control –– but we can’t plan everything and we’re all human at the end of the day. As I approach the end of my 20s, I have newfound respect for my mother, who sacrificed so much to give me a good life.
She must have struggled. She must have worried all the time. She must have had days where everything went completely wrong, but she pushed through anyway. And watching her push through taught me to do exactly that. She taught me to keep going despite adversity, and she did it completely through her actions.
This week, I am feeling honored to be my mother’s daughter. Happy birthday, Mom! Here’s to 50 more.