Last Saturday was my mom’s birthday. Unfortunately she’s not around so I couldn’t celebrate with her. She loved birthdays. Unlike most women who, once they’ve turned 30 or 35, don’t admit to how old they are, my mother told you before you asked.
She was proud of it and gloried in the fact that no one ever believed her because she looked, and acted, so much younger. She was a spunky one, full of piss and vinegar. She didn’t mince words, that one.
But she was also sentimental and her favourite cards, for all occasions, were the mushy ones. And she saved them all. After she died I think I found every birthday, anniversary and Valentine’s Day card my father and I ever gave her.
For her, it wasn’t about extravagant gifts, fancy restaurants and big parties. It was about being with those she cared about most — family, friends and my friends, too. As long as we were together it didn’t matter where we were. We could be at home or having a burger at some greasy spoon.
There did have to be cake, though. Even in her 80s she loved blowing out the candles and would always clap her hands with glee when she’d see us approaching with one. She’d have this huge smile on her face, she’d suck in her breath, lean over and blow with all her might. And she’d get just as excited when it was someone else’s birthday. Cake was cake and she loved ’em all.
It drove her nuts because even as a small child I hated birthdays. I have no idea why, but I did. She always wanted to make me a party and I never wanted one. Needless to say she won the battle every time. And yes, there was cake and I’d have to endure the whole ritual. It just brought her such joy.
With few exceptions we were always together on our respective birthdays, even once I’d moved to Toronto. So needless to say August 20 is no longer the happy day it once was for me — until I remember the look of absolute bliss on her face as she’d dig into her very generous slice of cake and savour that first mouthful.
That sound you hear is my mother, smacking her lips.