I started this post about thirty minutes ago and have written and deleted and written and deleted...and after a half hour, the only words I have past "Dear Mom" are the ones contained in the sentence you are currently reading. I want to write something beautiful that honors you...something that will do justice to how much I value each of your sixty years. I want to say the kind of words that people say about someone once they're gone, except I want to say them to you NOW. I want to write words that will make turning sixty feel like a victory...I mean after all, you have survived a lot.
But...here's the thing: I haven't been able to write ANYTHING for months. I've been thinking and reflecting and then thinking and reflecting some more and I've decided that I'm in the throws of an early mid-life crisis. This crisis it seems, may be your fault. I know, I know, I promised a victory for you somewhere in all of this. Just hang in here with me. I realize that the blame I'm placing on you is not in the least bit fair. Even so, let's be honest and say it...mother to mother: we know that fairness makes no difference at all when it comes to children, mothers and blame. You see, I crossed the thresh hold into my thirties without giving it much thought. But, I have found that you turning sixty, has given me a new perspective. Let me see if I can explain....
Do you remember our trip to Panama City Beach when I was 6-years-old? I'm sure you do. That was the trip that YOU chipped my tooth. We had gone with some friends whose daughter was Denise's, age (6 years older than me). I was 3 years younger than I would have been if things had gone according to your original plan (You know, the plan in which I was also going to be named "Danny"). You were paying your usual penance for having a "tilted uterus", by filling the role of my playmate (since you were unable to get pregnant with me in time to make me a viable playmate for all the other children in our lives). I was wearing a little purple bikini covered in little white hearts with ruffles on the top and I was dreaming of the day that I would take your place as the most beautiful woman in the world (when I would look the way you did in your blue bikini). I had a deep sense of pity for all of the poor mothers who were laying on the beach because they didn't have a 6-year-old as cool as I was to share a day at the beach with. I mean, they were so bored that they looked as if they might have actually fallen asleep! You and I were riding the waves in the ocean...you on one side of the raft and me on the other. We were laughing and chatting. I remember feeling like I was on top of the world and you were obviously having the best day of your life because you were lucky enough to have someone as fun as me to play with. And then, reality slapped me right upside the head (a phenomenon that I have since discovered to be a constantly recurring theme in my life). This particular time, reality came in the form of a giant wave...just as you decided you could no longer stand my adorable 6-year-old cuteness and leaned in for a kiss. Now that I am a mother myself, I know the panic that you must have felt as you struggled to find your footing so you could keep me safely above the undertow. But at the time, in the safety provided by your presence, I instead found freedom to express my fury regarding your impeccable timing.
At this point in the story, things get a little foggy. I do recall my toes finding the ocean floor again as I stormed off saying, "I WANT MY DADDY!" I also recall the irritation I felt over your ability to laugh at my quirky little personality, while I felt you should have been begging my forgiveness for the injustice forced upon me due to your inability to control the ocean tide. That ability to laugh, by the way, is one that I have seemed to have inherited and it has proven invaluable in embracing the quirks of MY delectable second child.
I still have a habit of narrating my own version of life. Is my glass half empty or half full? My hopelessly romantic nature often leaves my glass filled past the rim and overflowing. This results in the most amazing life...until life hits a bump and I'm left looking like I wet my pants. Okay maybe that isn't the best analogy for a story about playing in the ocean since we are, after all, already wet. But, it's still fitting for my life since my bubble regularly gets burst in a wide variety of settings.
But you know what else is memorable to me about this story? (I mean other than the chipped tooth that I sported for years?) According to my calculations, you were MY age. That was 27 years ago and it seems like yesterday, even to me.
Mom, I promise that I listened when you told me how fast it was all going to go by! One month into Emma's life, (when despite my attempts to soak up every second, I couldn't see where the month had gone), I knew that you were right. I know that they are growing up WAY faster than I have wanted them to. But what I haven't considered until now, is how old I'm going to be when we get there.
So what is it that makes growing older so difficult? I mean, the alternative isn't exactly an option we'd want to choose. I'll admit that looking in the mirror and noticing that the lines on my forehead have gotten deeper isn't fun. But, as unsettling as that can be, I don't think it's the problem. I think that (not so deep inside me), there is a fear that I will breeze through these years so exhausted by today's trials that I won't make the days valuable for tomorrow. I'm afraid that I might somehow live these wonderful days so lost inside myself that I never get in the ocean to play.
So THIS is what I want you to know:
When I wake up in the mornings and look into the mirror and see that woman in the blue bikini staring back at me, (Okay so I seriously doubt I'll be sporting a bikini anytime soon), I ask her what I can do that day to make me be the the kind of mother that you are. I constantly ask myself how you would have handled all sorts of situations. Those questions usually leave me running for the camera when Chloe gets into my makeup...or leaving the house a mess to go outside to play...or taking a break from making a grocery list to play Candyland,...or even deepening the lines in my forehead by getting up at 4 a.m. to work in the silence that I need to write a blog post. Asking those questions also gives me the assurance that when I choose to make the grocery list instead of reading "The Cat in The Hat" (for the ONE HUNDREDTH TIME!), or when I DO get frustrated about the 26th masterpiece that has been created on the wall with crayons or fingerpaint, that my love for them will prevail against those frustrations. Because of you, I know, that there is a way that tomorrow I'll be able to live with today. When the next 27 years have passed even faster than the last, if I am somehow able to know that I have reached sixty years old, with my kids feeling about me the way I do about you, I will claim it for the victory it is...with no regrets.
To the mother I dream of being, Happy 60th birthday! I hope you celebrate it as the victory it is.
I love you,
PS: Despite the frugality that I also inherited from you, I intend on investing in a non-generic box of Kleenex with aloe comfort for my nose before I write another sappy blog post.