Happy Birthday to me! I’m posting this at the end of a very long day, so by the time anyone reads this I’ll be in belated birthday status, but still, yay birthday!
Birthday flowers that Quinn picked out at the grocery store while I was at work today:
Nearly every Sunday during the five years I spent getting my bachelor’s degree at Ohio State, I would enjoy the day with my Grandma
in a nearby suburb of Columbus. She would drive down to the campus and
pick me up, and at her home I would do laundry, sometimes practice or
study, but most of the time just hang out and play Spite and Malice
and enjoy the wonderful dinner she would make. Grandma used to cook my
favorite things and delicious desserts, and even have on hand a bowl of
freshly washed grapes or other snack for when I walked in the door. I
was always welcome to bring a friend, and when I met Ian he became a
regular guest at Gram’s table on those Sunday afternoons. Sundays at
Gram’s kept me grounded during my college days and they are some of my
One year in Columbus my birthday fell on a Sunday and I was
depressed. I had to work in the morning and it made me grumpy. I sat
behind the art counter at the local campus bookstore getting more
irritated than usual at the people who couldn’t seem to read labels on
products themselves. I was bored and feeling unappreciated. I wanted
my birthday to be special. All we were planning was dinner at Gram’s,
but we always ate dinner at Gram’s. How was that supposed to feel
different from any other Sunday? How was that special?
I remember trudging home through slush after work and feeling sorry
for myself. But as I walked I thought about it, and it hit me: My
regular Sunday was better than the average person’s birthday. What more
could I really ask for? A home cooked meal made with me in mind,
sharing the day with people who love me, fun, maybe a nap, and clean
laundry to take home wasn’t enough for me? The more I thought about it,
the more ridiculous I felt that I had spent any time at all feeling
anything but grateful. How obnoxious and stupid.
So I was happy when Grandma picked up Ian and me and I drove us back
to her house.
And when I pushed the remote to open the garage door,
there was my parents’ car inside. They had driven down just for the
day. It was my first (and only) ever surprise party! My mom thought
that seemed like a pretty lackluster means of being surprised by
spotting their car first, but I assured her there was nothing second
rate about it. I was thrilled. And then an hour later (because they
are usually late to family events) my uncle and his family arrived, and
it was like getting round two of a surprise party.
It was a wonderful party and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I was glad
that I had come around to appreciating the day before I realized people
had gone to extra trouble. It’s too easy to become acclimated to good
things. We often think of ourselves as becoming callused to harsh
realities, but I think it happens both directions. When you never go
hungry it’s hard to appreciate the miracle of being fed every day. I
have a house, I have a job, I have my husband and kids all together….
Those things are hard to see clearly when you look at them all the
time. We get desensitized to the good as well as the bad, and I try to
be mindful of that.
Last night as I was shutting off the lights downstairs to go to bed I
hesitated in the kitchen and wondered if I should make myself a cake. I
wound up flipping through a binder of my Grandma’s recipes a came
across her rice pudding. I loved her rice pudding. It’s complicated to
make because it cooks for a long time on the stove, and when it moves
to the oven in a casserole dish it rests in a pan of hot water, but it’s
full of raisins and nutmeg and it’s delicious. I stayed up late and
made a batch and helped myself to some for breakfast this morning. I
miss my Grandma.
As far as birthdays go, this one was not action packed. I went to
work and rehaired violin bows and straightened bridges and set up a new
rental viola. When I got home Ian had started dinner and he took Aden
to her violin lesson while I finished making the food and set the
table. We ate one of those fast meals where we weren’t coordinated
enough to have everyone at the table at the same time but that’s okay. I
got to eat with everyone in turns. I got a couple of nice presents
from Ian’s mom, a Valentine made by Quinn presented to me in crumpled
paper, and look at these amazing watercolors my mom did of me when I was a baby!
So today wasn’t out of the ordinary. Not even the gifts, really,
because the kids make me things all the time and my mom doesn’t limit
her kind presents to special occasions. Particularly after watching so
much shocking footage of the tsunami in Japan over the past couple of
days, it’s hard not to treasure the most ordinary of circumstances. I
had a truly average birthday. I can’t think of anything more special.