Today is my birthday.
If I’m being honest, I’ve basically dreaded this day since Mom died.
Every year for as long as I can remember, Mom would give me a virtual play-by-play of my birthday – starting with the evening before. She’d call to tell me how her water broke on May 12, just after she had gotten into bed after a long night out at an event with my father. Apparently, I was in no rush to make my grand entrance into the world, so not much of anything happened after that. She’d end the phone call telling me that she’d talk to me tomorrow on my birthday…and then proceed to tell me that whenever she talked to me the following day that I still wasn’t born yet.
Sometimes she’d call me the morning of my birthday, sometimes during her lunch break at work, sometimes after work, sometimes around dinner. Depending on her schedule, she’d even call me all of those times during the day, if for no other reason than to tell me that I wasn’t born yet. “It’s your birthday, but you still weren’t born yet,” she’d remind me. Yes, Mom. I know. You tell me this every year. I know. I wasn’t born yet. Yes, I know I made you suffer through almost 24 hours of labor.
This year, I knew the “you weren’t born yet” phone calls wouldn’t come. I miss those silly calls. I’m not kidding. Sometimes I just had a message from Mom that said “Hi, birthday girl, you still weren’t born yet.” That’s it.
I’ve gotten lots of other phone calls and messages from friends today. All of them are very sweet. It’s not the same, of course. Nothing is the same. I’d be foolish to think otherwise.
I decided that I wanted to go to a familiar, comforting place for my birthday dinner. There’s a restaurant about 45 minutes away that I really enjoy. We’ve gone there before for my birthday and to celebrate our anniversary a few times. In fact, last year Mom was here visiting during my birthday weekend and watched Zack while we went to the same restaurant. I remembered this in the car as we drove tonight and started crying.
I’ve learned that about grief. I’m fine one second. Not fine the next. Out of nowhere, any memory, song, picture, trinket, etc. can ignite such a strong emotion that I’ll just burst into tears.
Then I started thinking about how this would be the first “nice dinner out” since Mom died. I can’t remember exactly when I started doing this, but I had gotten in the habit of taking pictures of meals (if we were out at nice restaurants) and sending them to Mom. Mom loved food and traveling and I think in some way, the pictures allowed her to experience these places with me.
When I traveled to Israel during college, back in the dinosaur days before smart phones, I remember taking photos of the food I ate just so I could show it to Mom. Photos on actual film. Crazy, I know.
As I was crying in the car, I was thinking that this would be the first dinner with no photos for Mom. I used to text them to her, then immediately call her to tell her to check her iPad for the photos so I could describe them in detail. Then, I cried some more as I let it sink in that I can’t do that anymore.
I can’t text Mom to share the photos anymore, but I can do it here.
So, here are the photos that I would have sent to Mom:
We finished dinner around 7 p.m. and I’m assuming I would have called her from the car shortly after. I would have told her about my meal and Mike would have told her about his. Given that it was still before 9:39 p.m., she would have told me that I still wasn’t born yet.
Yes, Mom. I know.