Saturday, July 9, 2011

happy birthday, take two

Quick disclaimer: Mom, if you're reading this, I know you well. Do yourself a favor and grab a tissue. 

I honestly debated even writing this post because it occurred to me that any meaningful words I'm able to string together will still never convey the love and appreciation I have for the shining example of a woman in my life, my mother. Still, I've decided to try, and my only hope is that it inspires one of you reading to call your mom and tell her how much you care, and that it brings a smile to the face of the woman that raised me.


It was my mom's birthday last week, and for me it was an incredibly important day - a day I had been waiting for since almost exactly a year prior. You see, this time last year I had just moved to a new city. I had just started a new job, at a new agency, where I was struggling to find my footing. I had started dating a new guy, had moved into a new apartment, and had begun the calculated conquest of my decade of self-discovery, my twenties. If you asked me then, one year ago, what day of the week it was or likely even my own birthday, I would have struggled to come up with an answer, my head swimming with due dates for bills and deadlines for presentations. Now I explain all of this to you not to claim any sort of excuse for what I'm about to tell you, but instead to set the stage for what would be one of the biggest, most stunning mistakes I have ever made as a daughter.

One year ago last week, I forgot my mother's birthday.

How in the world could this happen? This woman - the woman that has never forgotten an important day in my life's existence, not a test, not a science fair, not a trip, not a dinner, the same woman whose lessons have navigated me through my short but tumultuous life thus far - this very woman only received a phone call from one of her children on June 30th last year, and that child was not me. Again, how could this happen?

I sit here almost brought to tears thinking about that day for her. It pains my heart to think that even for a moment she felt the slightest tinge of under-appreciation or a lack of gratitude. And if some of you are thinking this is a bit dramatic, (well frankly I hope you know me well enough by now to expect a little of that, but) you have to understand that in my family, birthdays are not presents or parties. Birthdays are simple gestures of love and acknowledgement and that is how it has always been. It is all we ever need or expect. So to forget a phone call is in fact a big deal. And for your mother, who (at that time) had just watched you graduate college and had learned to let go so you could begin your adult life, it is a VERY big deal.

Despite this glaring oversight, though, she never once made me feel guilty or selfish, and all has certainly been forgiven since then (it is her nature after all.) Even though I admit I'm still a bit mortified, we've moved on and I know she will probably never mention it again.

Now let me take a moment to say, forgive me for the somber start to this post. I'm well aware that the title of the blog is clumsy, crafty, happy, not clumsy, crafty, guilty, and I really never intended for this to read like some sort of Oprah special (though if it were, I envision it with some whispy title screen that fades into black and white with a huge header reading, A Daughter's Regret. Besides the point of course.) My intention with the aforementioned backstory was simply to provide an honest context for you when I move on to the real point of this story: this year's birthday.

Before I begin, let me give you a brief introduction to this wonderwoman that I call Mom. (It's true that pretty much all of you reading will never meet my mom, so I understand if this is where you stop reading. Because in all honesty, I think we can agree this post isn't for you. It's not even really for me. It's for her. It's a public declaration that of all the moms I could have been born to, I'm glad it was her.)

When I think of my mom, Patty, there are a few key things about her that come to mind:

A giver's heart. When my brother and I were growing up, she would write simple and beautifully worded messages in Hallmark cards and leave them on our beds to find when we got home from school. She said it was for no other reason than to remind us that she cared. (Perhaps it's where I began to understand the power of words and the impact a well-written card can make.) Mom, you'll never know what an impression those small gestures made on Matt and me. We didn't have a lot of money or luxuries growing up, but when I think about my childhood now, there is not even a hint of wanting that I can detect from my memory. Why? Because she gave everything within her so that we never felt disadvantaged in any way. She would gladly hand over her last dime to us because that is the giver she is and it still shows in everything she does. Everything I know about being selfless I have learned from her, and I'm so incredibly grateful for all that she's sacrificed over the years.

A fighter's strength. I've met a number of strong women in my life, but none as persistent as my mom. There have been many times when life has dealt its blows and her motto has always remained, One small bite at a time. It may sound simple but it's something that has been so helpful for me to remember throughout life's many tough moments. When I'm feeling overwhelmed or down on my luck, a quick call to her is all it takes to remind me how to press on. And more than anything, when there is a problem, by golly this woman will find a solution. She's a solver, and I haven't encountered a conundrum yet that she hasn't found her way out of. Thank you, Mom, for giving me the will and the way to always keep my head up.

A traveler's soul. She has always been, and will always be, somewhat of a wanderlust. In her youth, and even young adulthood as a flight attendant, my mom circled the country and the world visiting new and exciting places. I don't know if her early travels had anything to do with how open-minded she would become, but it is something I have always admired about her. I know as life has gone on, she hasn't been able to travel as much as she'd like. For years now I've been dreaming of the day that I'm finally able to take her on a fabulous trip to some carefully selected spot across the world where we can eat amazing food, drink copious amounts of wine, and get lost in a city together, breathing in the culture and the people. One day.

But for now, on this birthday, something smaller did just fine. Last week, on June 30th, I arranged for us to meet at a new restaurant in St. Augustine she'd been dying to try (thanks to my stepdad for the excellent reconnaissance!) After work, Jason and I drove to downtown St. Augustine to meet her and Tom, my stepdad. Even though it had been raining earlier in the day, the wet streets and dripping branches created kind of a magical and cozy feeling as we walked into the restaurant. The moment I saw my mom, her face lit up with excitement, and I silently released a huge sigh of relief - I knew she had had a fantastic day. It brought me such joy to know that on this birthday, she felt so special and happy. Something else about my mom, she has this way of hugging you with such purpose that she makes you feel as though you're the most important person in the world. I just love that.

After we chatted and caught up at the bar for a few, we were finally seated at our table. Let me pause and say this restaurant was perfect for her too - The Floridian it's called, and they use fresh seasonal and local ingredients to make incredible Southern dishes. (I mean, they serve you your water in a mason jar. How stinkin' cute is that?) We drank wine and the four of us laughed so hard we cried (okay, only Mom and I did that, I'm realizing it actually might just be a genetic thing.) But all in all, it was a great birthday dinner. Then, the kicker. After our meals, I slipped her one of my home-crafted cards. Making cards instead of buying them for special occasions is one of my great joys. (If I wasn't such a dummy I would have taken a picture before. Sorry guys!)

Now as I've mentioned, if my mom expected anything at all for her birthday, a card would have been the very most. Which is why giving anything to her is such a satisfying experience, because she never sees it coming. In the weeks leading up to her birthday, Jason and I had arranged a trip for her and Tom to visit one of our favorite spots, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The first time we went there all I could think was, this place has Patty written all over it. And of course each time we returned she talked about how she would love to go there someday. We reserved the weekend of her and Tom's anniversary in October, and I knew that her traveler's soul would be absolutely elated. So as Mom finished reading her card, hugged me and whispered in my ear, Thanks, darling, I simply whispered back with a huge smile on my face, There's more. She pulled away and looked at me, puzzled.

And then, I dropped the bomb.

It was like she froze. Her expression was one of disbelief. We all were holding our breath and waiting for her response. (Later, Jason told me during this long pause he legitimately thought she didn't like our gift. I laughed because in that moment, I could read her silence like a book. I knew she was over the moon.) She smiled and slowly brought her hands up to her face. I could see tears welling up in her eyes. It took everything in me not to cry too (yup, I'm a sympathetic crier) but instead I just wrapped my arms around her and said, You deserve it.

No one ever wants to see their mom cry, but it was okay for me because I knew what it meant: Utter happiness. Gratitude. Excitement. Relief.

Again, there are no words to accurately describe how full your heart can become from giving something to the person who has given you the most in life. That Thursday night I left St. Augustine feeling overcome with happiness. Because even though my mom doesn't get to travel as much as she'd like, in October she will get to escape for a weekend because of us. And even though I royally screwed up last year, it's a new year. And my mother, the woman who has made all things possible for me, felt special and appreciated.

And from a daughter to a mother, that is all I could ever want.


  1. Tears in my eyes too. You're an amazing young woman ... Would love to catch up with you.

  2. Your brother sounds like a silly billy for not reminding you.

  3. You are right your Mom is very special......and she has 2 amazing grown children that knows how to show their love and apprecation!!  I have tears in my eyes that was special and also love your Mom!!