Presently we are in amidst a whirl of birthdays in the family. Yesterday my twin daughters turned 24, in four days my youngest 6’3” son cranks up to age 16 and his brother mid-month turns 17. It makes me reminisce...
Carefully I turned down the thin, white bobby socks-edges trimmed in lace. I twisted my body sideways one way and then the other buckling my patent leather shoes. With a Kleenex and a glob of Vaseline they glistened. My mother encouraged rigorous buffing until I could just make out a wavy distorted image of myself. It was my 9th birthday. My dress for the day had to be just right. The grass saturated with snow melt recovering from the fury of winter was a brown mustard like color. My bare legs pretended that spring was near. I remember how cold I was early that morning my legs peppered in goose bumps. I kept warmer and distracted while jumping rope with my friends on the asphalt covered playground. The soles of my shiny shoes scraped the tar with every jump as I was careful not to scuff my toes and ruin the shine. “My bonnie lies over the ocean, My bonnie lies over the sea…”
It was my birthday. And instead of the usual crisp $5.00 bill from my grandmother, she hired a friend to piece together a doll for me. It’s embroidered face round while the body, arms and legs were strung together small twists of cloth yo-yo’s. Somehow the notion of my grandmother orchestrating a birthday surprise for me with her friend, May Ryan somehow sealed the fact that I was loved. It is funny that out of all my childhood birthdays this one I remember vividly. I am not sure why because I am not driven by materialism now nor was I particularly struck with it as a child, but that day was different. Every Irish Catholic girl on the playground wished her birthday were on this day. I jumped out of the arching rope and tucked my green blouse into my wool skirt. Everyone wore green on St. Patrick’s Day. I felt loved and extra-special.
As an adult, I do not measure love through gifts, yet I recognize my wealth through other means. Particularly, this time I year as I mark another birthday I mix gratitude with a tad ofmelancholy for the culmination of all my relationships feed me all the love that I need. Yes, I still feel loved and extra-special. I just hope I have passed this gift onto my children as well. For they are all loved.