Birthday Blues

This weekend has had so many memories swirling around in my head. I thought I might safely get through it until I got a text from my daughter-in-law on Tuesday that changed my plan. Being a mother of adult children lends itself to a sharp learning curve (well, everything with children is a learning curve), but as my nest emptied these past few years, I’ve learned that I don’t always see my boys on the anniversary of their births. It’s natural, they’re in college, they’re with friends, they’re married, and not every celebration has to include the person that actually went through the pain of bringing them into the world.

I get it—my role as a mother changes with the years.

So, I wasn’t overly upset that I wouldn’t see my youngest for his upcoming birthday. He had a fun trip planned with his wife. They wanted to enjoy as many such trips, being both newlyweds and planning on living overseas for a season. Get it all in while you can. I did the same thing to my mom—no blame there.

I think that’s why the sudden change of plans messed me up a bit. I had put my feelings in a box and was dealing. Now they tell me they’ve readjusted the date on their fun trip and were heading my way on Friday for the weekend. Her parents were coming up for the day on Saturday, and then on Sunday, we’d celebrate my son’s birthday with a cookout at his brother’s. I should be thrilled.

I was until my emotion box got opened all back up.

Maybe the twenty-year anniversary of 9/11 has had something to do with it. My mind keeps going back to that day. We lived in Tunisia, and I was at a friend’s house planning this same son’s fourth birthday, which would have been the following day. Unlike us, she had cable television and the news was on CNN. With young children happily playing out on their balcony, the mothers watched as one, then two planes flew into the World Trade Center towers on a beautiful September day, and our world changed forever.

I cannot even tell you right now if we still had that birthday party. I literally remember nothing about it, but I do remember everything I felt in that moment and that we lived through in the weeks and months and years afterward. So, when I think of 9/11, I can’t help but think of 9/12 and how life changed for my youngest as a result.

Birthdays are meant to be celebrated.

I’m so glad our culture celebrates birthdays. I have known many people who have never had a birthday party or had cake to just celebrate another year of life. Yes, we might get carried away in America, but I cannot say I’m sorry that we take one day out of the year to tell a person, “I’m so glad you’re in this world. I celebrate your life.”

When we move away from family, especially when we cross oceans in the process, birthdays can be lonely times. I remember my first birthday in Ivory Coast. Homesickness hit hard because birthday packages didn’t always come on time. Still, I got a phone call (like a prisoner, I know, but it was “back in the day”), and I heard my dad singing in his off-key voice right along with my mother’s beautiful singing voice the Happy Birthday song. That made everything alright because they celebrated me.

So, I had the blues because I missed my chance to do “big” for my son. Sure, he’d get some cash, a good meal, and a nice cake, but I was at a complete loss to know how to show him how much I celebrated his life this one last time before he left. I was afraid the emotions would overwhelm us both.

What’s a mother to do with the birthday blues?

As this son would always say when I asked him what he needed: “Love me, feed me, and never ever leave me.” I’m so grateful he knows I will always come through with love, food, and presence in his life until the Lord takes me home, and for now, I think I have to be satisfied that he got all that this birthday. I’m just blessed that I got it too, when I didn’t think I would.

So, for now, I’ll shake my blues away and put them back in a box that I hope I won’t have to open this time next year. I’ll send my love from far away, put money in his account for a good meal on mom, and trust for a good internet connection for some face time to sing Happy Birthday to celebrate him all over again.

Who can you celebrate today, this week, or in the months ahead? Far or near, give a big cheer to say you’re so glad they’re in this world and your life. It could be the thing that keeps them from getting the birthday blues.

Grace and Peace.

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