Today is my birthday. The song birds are back. I heard them singing to me in the trees outside my bedroom window. March 5th is the perfect day for a birthday, don't you think? So full of hope. And besides that I noticed on the news this morning that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is at an all time high today. Happy Birthday to all of us!
My good friend Annick came over this morning to wish me a happy birthday. We got to talking about my mom, and about my having grown up in the east and how that has affected my taste and my choices. Annick said something that rang refreshingly true.
"Your mother moving to an eastern city from a small town in Idaho is not all that unique," she said. "It's the fact that she knew what to do with that big city that makes her special. That she knew to access what it had to offer, the gifts of Andrew Carnegie, and historical sites, and other aspects of eastern life that she made an effort to walk through. And while she walked through them, she took your hand and gave them to you as well."
The best gifts cannot be wrapped. That's not to discredit the charm of our tokens of affection. In the end, though, the big gifts are too multi-dimensional to wrap.
The most cherished birthday gift I have ever received, besides my own life, is the life of my daughter, Sarah. She was born on my 22nd birthday. Though she's a medical doctor, she has an artist's soul, and she loves symbolism. I think she liked the idea of sharing a birthday, so she came to us three weeks early when we were living in New York. She has always graciously shared birthdays with me, even when she was little. She'd make sure all the kids at her birthday parties would sing to her mommy too. Poor kid has never had her very own day.
This past year my Sarah offered another fine gift to two of my sisters. One of the finest, I think. Last June, when baby Joe began to knock on the door of human adventure, Sarah called to tell us they were on the way to the hospital. A few minutes later she called back and asked to talk to Libby.
"I wondered if you and Sherry would like to come be with us as Joe arrives?" she said. It was a divine and rare invitation, directed by the spirit.
So our friend who's like a sister, Leslie, came over to stay with Gram, and Libby and Sherry and I drove together up to McKay Dee Hospital. Sherry and Libby, aunties extraordinaire, have cuddled and bathed and nourished and changed diapers on countless babies, including Sarah herself. These women have known and loved her from the moment she was born. But they have never witnessed, firsthand, the process of birth. That Sarah, on her own, would be conscious of this and despite her natural modest nature invite them into her personal space is an indicator of the largeness of her spirit. I sat there on the couch in her birthing room, looking at her, noticing how radiant she was; somewhat shocked at her maturity, like it suddenly hit me that she was really grown up. She was so dignified, in every possible way. And stunningly beautiful.
I cannot recall the timeline; how long we were there, what we talked about, even the time of day. But I do recall the energy in the room rising with the closeness of contractions. I remember the doctor coming in the room, the machinery and the tools and the shifting of positions and the tightness of the grip in Sarah's hand as it wrapped around her husband's, her knees being drawn to her chest, her breath held, her forehead sweaty, her head falling back on her pillow between efforts. There was no grunting or groaning, just deeply drawn breaths, and large sighs of relief before the process began again. Then, there was that magical moment, that crowning glory of womanhood. A little crown of hair, then a full head, then slipping with the grace of an eagle in flight, he burst onto this planet with a wiggle and a cry. Our baby Joe, for one last moment fully dependant on his mother, but breathing the air of this earth. I stood back and watched as my sisters wept, their hands in the air, then drawn to their hearts, their eyes on the child, then on the mother, then on the child again. I watched their chests rise and fall with the majesty of it all. I listened to their awe, that almost unspeakable expression that finds no words.
Christmas morning could ever compare. Well, perhaps that first Christmas morning, I suppose.
I am often proud of my children. They do much that would make a mother proud, all of them. But this day, on the day of her birth, and on the day of my own birth, I celebrate with gratitude the goodness of my oldest daughter, Sarah. If I could take anything from her it would be her own self doubts. I would have her see herself through my eyes. What she would see is a woman of grace and dignity and goodness, bursting with talent and intelligence, with a heart so tender it will be torn and healed over and over again, but so strong and resilient that it will live forever in the love of her Lord.
Happy Birth-day, my Sarah Love.
Lucky little boy who will call you Mommy.