Another year around the sun complete. Some words which moved me – to smile, to laugh, to think, to cry.
Life is full. Times passes quickly. Each day is a gift.
We celebrated a birthday this week, in a fairly low-key fashion. While I generally write a birthday piece and devote it to the celebrant, I struggled with a cohesive message when it came to my middle son’s birthday and a litany of pithy observations and attributes just felt forced. You see, he is, as my estranged mother likes to assert, the one who is “just like me.” While she would like to believe that he is my punishment for all the terrible things I put her through during my own teen years, I disagree. He is my triumph.
When my first child was born, organized me was totally ill prepared. He was early, he was small and he arrived surgically rather than in anything remotely resembling the Bradley birth for which we had been preparing. He became critically ill, a consequence in my mother’s eyes of my own stubbornness and incompetence, rather than the fault of a medical team who failed to make a routine and simple diagnosis. Feeding him was a challenge and he missed milestone after milestone. With all of the necessary interventions, it was a long time before I felt like he was “mine”* and could confidently manage his care and develop routines that worked for us.
Griffin, though? He is my child, not my mother’s, not a medical patient, not an early intervention case to be managed. He arrived on the precise day for which I was hoping – the last day of April and not the first of May, my own mother’s birthday. He is a gift to me, my very own diamond, albeit one which remains in need of a little polishing.
I birthed this child and fed him from my own body for more than a year. Together with his dad, I dressed and nurtured him, feeling capable in my veteran mother status. He started running as soon as he was vertical at a mere 11 months. His first word was “Go!” which he yelled at the vehicle in front of us, after the light had turned green and the driver failed to step on the gas fast enough. He continues to be the child who most resembles his parents in terms of physical strength, coordination and interest in athletics. He can thank his Dad for his gorgeous curls and rue his maternal genes which came complete with freckles and a mild form of a condition known as pectus excavatum.
Mirroring my own personality, he is inclined to intolerance when it comes to bureaucratic educational nonsense and tends to be a bit of a fashionista. Like his dad, he has a mind for math along with a tendency to procrastinate and then respond with frustration when he finds himself overwhelmed by an avalanche of responsibilities. He’ll make it through, though. He’s smart and sensitive, social and funny as a hell, and I understand him in a way that feels completely intuitive and natural.
If being “just like me” means my son will find his own path through life, with the added benefit of two parents who love and support him, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the sweet “punishment” the universe has imposed. He is just what I deserve.
*When I say “mine,” in no way am I suggesting that he is more mine than he is his father’s. Of course, he is ours.
It’s been almost 17 years since I became a parent. Impossible. When my water broke 5+ weeks before my due date, I remember feeling more excited than nervous, confident that my baby would be healthy and hearty. The unusually warm temperature (a record, it turned out) seemed a positive beacon and I went to the hospital with an easy heart and only a light sweater for warmth on a late February day.
My son’s early arrival was my first lesson in parenting and it was a bit of a challenge for me. After conceiving in my first month’s attempt and enjoying a very easy pregnancy, I was shocked to be completely lacking in control when it came to when (now!) and how (c-section) he would make his entrance. My world shifted and I scrambled to hold on.
I don’t think it is possible to predict how, or how much, having a child will change a person. Finding the balance between placing child(ren) in the center of our universe, while remembering the importance of retaining our own identities and independence demands grace and poise, not necessarily my strengths. It’s a strange thing sometimes. While I love being recognized as so-and-so’s mother, I often find myself hesitating when I sign my name on a note I’ve written to my children. Identifying myself as “Mom” still feels remarkably new, even after 17 years in the role.
Prior to becoming a parent, I had imagined all of the things I would teach my child – how to walk, speak, read, swim, travel… What I hadn’t really considered were all the things I would learn about myself from my children. I now know I can be incredibly patient, fiercely protective and relentlessly organized. On the less positive side, I’m critical, inclined to blunt sarcasm and often guilty of doing too many of the household tasks myself without demanding some effort from the boys. It’s probably a control thing.
Ultimately, though, what I find most fascinating about being a mom, is witnessing my children learn who they are as individuals. It is absolutely amazing to see the unique creatures that have been created by using the same genetic contributions. Seeing my oldest son evolve from a premature, critically ill infant into a strong and healthy young man has been remarkable. As he marks his 17th birthday, I recognize that we both began a new life that February afternoon in 1997.
If I think back on music from my childhood, The Beatles immediately come to mind. They were definitely the soundtrack of many car rides in my memory.
When my oldest son was born, 5+ weeks early, I didn’t have a pediatrician, nor did I know a single lullaby or nursery song. Or so I thought. Doing the new baby rock and walk, I found myself humming Beatles’ songs, sometimes even murmuring the lyrics.
My first digital camera had a memory stick that held about 8 images or a seconds long video. There was a mini movie of the oldest 2 Lilly boys singing their hearts out to Hey, Jude, including all the Judy, Judys and a perfectly timed and heartfelt “Ow.” I have no idea where that memory stick is and it doesn’t matter. I’ll never forget that moment.
My youngest child turned nine today on the very same day that marks 50 years since The Beatles invaded America. Perfect synchronicity. Quinn’s love for The Beatles is pure and relentless, just like him. He hasn’t yet tired of discussing the tragedy of George’s cancer or John’s assassination. He knows the words to countless songs and when he doesn’t, he enthusiastically makes up his own.
For this year’s birthday dinner, I wanted something lowkey. I simply wanted a good meal in a place I could enjoy with my boys. After consulting with The Wine Consultor and talking tables with Table Hopping’s Steve Barnes, Clarksville’s Jake Moon came out ahead as the crowd favorite. I made a reservation.
On Saturday evening I assigned the middle child the task of getting his brothers appropriately dressed for dinner. Oldest son was disappointed that his navy blazer, or as he called it, “Newport casual,” was overkill, but he graciously took it off. We headed south on Delaware Avenue and in less than 20 minutes, we arrived at our destination.
If you haven’t been to Jake Moon, be prepared to be underwhelmed by the physical space. It is decidedly country diner-ish, which happens to be one of my favorite types of joints. We were greeted warmly and shown to our comfortable reserved table. Menus were perused, my bottle of 2006 Martinelli Pinot noir (it was my birthday!) was opened and we feasted on a beautiful basket of house made bread and butter.
I opened with a golden beet salad with goat cheese and candied nuts. The beets were firm and sweet and balanced beautifully by the ever-so-slightly funkiness of the cheese. Two of the guys went with the Clarksville Fish Fry, a generous piece of battered and fried whitefish served with tasty fries and coleslaw.
Middle son selected the bar-b-q plate, to maximize his chances of trying everything, after determining that I would be having the sirloin strip steak. His portion of tender ribs, beautifully charred chicken and mound of pulled pork, was seriously enough protein for three servings. Accompanied by coleslaw and corn bread it was a formidable plate and he brought more than half of it home.
My steak was perfectly cooked and flavorful with a chewy bite or two. Again, the fries were perfect, the green beans super fresh and the red chimichurri, served on the side, added a nice dimension.
The service was refreshingly friendly and efficiently competent. We indulged in a couple of deserts including a slice of chocolate “birthday” cake and their house speciality coffee toffee pie, which frankly was a tad too sweet for my tastes. No worries. We left with substantial leftovers and overall with a very good taste in our mouths. Can’t wait to give them a try for breakfast!
…not the gifts. Although, they’re lovely and thoughtful and it can be so fun to unwrap surprise packages. Most of the time, that is. But, when all is said and done, it is truly all about the people with whom we are lucky enough to spend time.
For countless years, I feel as if I have had the best birthday ever, each year. How incredible is that? I’ve said it before, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it remains true – I am a simple person. I do appreciate daily luxuries like great soap and delicious coffee or a pair of Frye boots that I can wear for 20 years. But, truly, stuff isn’t all that important to me however, people…well, now you’re talking.
Friday night my favorite running friends spent the evening easing me into my birthday weekend. We laughed and ran under a big moon, and talked. Then we cleaned up, went out and toasted our strength, our good health, our years of life.
We were joined by one of my oldest friends, a woman who I have been fortunate enough to grow up with for the last 30+ years. She had driven nearly two hours to be with me as I made the joyful leap into a new year. We shared memories and hugs and laughter.
Our designated driver took us to Wolff’s Biergarten and even indulged my whim to go to a second spot, not because I needed another drink, but because I just didn’t want the night to end. The contribution he made to my perfect night should not be minimized. There was thoughtfulness, care and love, none of which can be presented in a package, no matter the size. Me, the reputed “difficult to take care of,” had been thoroughly taken care of.
The merging of three different areas of my life, the active, the established and the emotional was the perfect way to close out my 46th year and herald a new year of living. No bow or wrapping required.
Some of the things I find myself saying at this point in my life…
I love you
It is what it is
You’ve got be kidding me
We all know when we’ve had enough
I’ll give it a shot
Because I’m an idiot
I was away
You’ve got this
I don’t need really need it
Not my fault
Because I said so
You have no idea
Living the dream
I can’t imagine
You’re getting the best of me
I adore you
Is it me?
Stop wasting my time
You have no idea
Why would anyone do that?
Who says that?
The opposite of love is indifference
I’m so proud of you