Today is my mom's birthday. (Well, really tomorrow, as I am writing this early because I want it posted first thing.) Ten to one, she is at home, eyes red and nose stuffed up from her hay fever. My father probably bought her socks or a book he wants to read himself. My brothers didn't buy her anything, and she had to make her own cake because my family is full of boys and shipping a cake from Michigan is just silly and apt to melt. Speaking of the heat, she is too hot because it is August 29th and everyone normal is too hot. She is disappointed by her birthday, like she is every year (except the year we took off to Louisiana and stopped by Graceland, that was a good birthday), because having a birthday in late summer sucks. Ask Awkward Dad in about a week and he'll tell you. OK, he probably won't because he'll be pouting about how I failed to surprise him with a good birthday, yet again.
Basically, my mom's birthday makes her feel like this:
However, don't despair for her. Send her chocolate instead and know that sometime in the beautiful chill of October, my mom will declare an unbirthday and we will eat a disgusting amount of food that will hurt our bellies as we laugh and laugh and fall off the couch laughing.
She is always laughing.
My mom is amazing. That word doesn't mean half of what I want it to mean. She deserves a nice birthday and it sucks that she never gets one. This is the woman who never forgets a birthday and who thoughtfully sends you a card that arrives the day before yours so you get that tingling, it's-coming, Christmas feeling. If you are lucky enough to be around her on your birthday, she will celebrate with taffy-pulling or a giant buffalo cut-out or pirate eye-patches or the entire catalog of the Oriental Trading Company. There will be confetti and she will totally leave it wherever you throw it because my mom thinks fun is way more important than spotless. And the cake. I don't even need to mention the cake because I have a whole post about it, right here. She is basically a birthday fairy.
I think she might be a real fairy at that, and, if not, certainly magical. She is the kind of woman who thinks an unbirthday is a fine idea and not at all silly. Nor is decorating for Halloween or totally overdoing for Christmas or eating a bag of M&Ms on the couch while watching stand-up comedy for hours. My mom has never forgotten how to laugh like she is 6 years old and doesn't care if there is milk coming out of her nose. She still gets excited about weird looking gourds and getting real mail and cool cheeses and giving gifts and road trips and county fairs and parties and Netflix and friends and pretty much anything weird, fun, or having to do with cats. In fact, she loves cats so much that, despite an allergy, she lives with a herd (oops, I mean clowder) of them, and I think she just got a kitten, who she named Artemis Nala because go big or go home seems to be my mom's motto.
I am having the worst day today; headache, pregnancy ick, feeling like a terrible mother for not taking my children anywhere on one of the last days of summer vacation but instead letting them watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, shirtless, while eating an entire bag of pretzel rods. So, I call my mom, who listens quietly and respectfully to my complaining, and then tells me that she saw a car in the shape of a chicken in the parking lot of the nearby fried chicken joint. She describes it, in detail, and reminds me of the time we saw a similar one in Illinois while we were looking for an "angry Lincoln" water tower. It is hilarious because Chicken Cars are hilarious. We laughed and laughed. Because that is what fixes icky hot days when nothing is going right; laughing and laughing. This may sound overly simple to you. It is simple. Simply wonderful.
Now, don't get me wrong, my mom is smart. My mom is crazy smart. I am fairly sure there isn't a book out there she hasn't read and I know there isn't a topic alive that she won't touch. No, she says, bring all your contentious, prickly, uncomfortable issues on over here; I'll provide the snacks and we'll work out the troubles of the world over some clam dip. And she can do it too; she has managed to achieve the impossible. She is the eye of every conversation tornado. Her roots are solid and her branches are flexible; she is the reed that bends in the storm that takes out the mighty oak. And as mind-boggling as that is, that isn't even the most impressive thing about her.
My mom has perfect handwriting; small, clear, and tightly packed all over the page and onto the back of the card. Just looking at her handwriting brings you the potential joy of starting a new book. And what a new book it will be. Little novels, each one. And all just for you; an entire masterpiece created just for your eyes. Her rare Facebook status are poems about cardinals and sunsets and the endless space from her beautiful house on the hill. She once told me that she wanted to be a writer, like it was a long ago forgotten dream, which made me stare at her. Doesn't she know she already is one?
My mom is many things. She is reassuring and challenging all at once. She is strong and gentle in the same breath. She is the most generous person I know. The gifts she gives are always unique, personal, and wonderfully weird. She is curious, endlessly curious. She has started a blog and seems utterly undaunted by the fact that she keeps forgetting how to log in. She is undaunted by most things. She makes huge gourmet meals any time she pleases and the messes she makes in her kitchen are delightful because she doesn't care. She'll clean it later; right now she wants to make this 7 layer cake and gossip about this crazy thing she saw on the internet. She manages to give you her full attention and still never sit down. Every new action is fearless; she just goes for it. Because my mom has no desire to win. To be first. To be perfect. Life is way too interesting to be slowed down by awards and accolades; her secret seems to be her utter satisfaction with herself. With riding along the whirlwind of life from the bed of the pickup truck, rather than sedately strapped in the backseat. But that is not her biggest secret.
My mom always says that she believed in Santa far longer than her friends or siblings, and it totally shows. She has never lost her childness. Her playfulness. Her joy. And there is a wisdom there that nothing can touch. This is my mom's biggest secret, most impressive skill, and her lasting legacy. Her laughter. It is infectious and unstoppable. She taught me how to laugh, and even the most casual reader of this blog will tell you that took like a house on fire. Frankly, I try to never stop.
Look, life can suck. Stuff like cancer and school shooters and racism exist. I don't want to trivialize that. But I also don't want to saccharineize it either. La la la; I can't hear you and your unpleasantness. Awkward Women are not Pollyannas who just ignore the stuff we don't like. My mom is not like the mom in St. Elmo's Fire who whispers all the unpleasant words, like it will make them not be as bad. First of all, we talk loud in the Awkward family, so that wouldn't work. And second of all, my mom is more likely to make a snack, invite the issue into the middle of the room, and try to figure it out. Or at least try to make it less big. Laughter can reduce the size of just about anything, even when your birthday is in late August and your hay fever is acting up.
Basically, my mom is a steel magnolia and laughter through tears is her favorite emotion. She is also pretty fond of straight-up laughter too. Having a bad day and feeling like the worst mom in the world? Look, a chicken car! She could sit me down and lecture me about all my maternal gifts and how good I am and how my children are alive and fed and happy. But that takes too long and we Awkwards are impatient. Let's get to the part of the phone call where we are falling of chairs laughing because someone made a car into the shape of a chicken. A CHICKEN. She is a genius. My mom is a genius and she deserves a better birthday.
Now, I could wax poetic about my mom for another hour or 12. In fact, I do about once a month. Seriously, look at my past posts, the proof is there. But this post is missing something. I think this post needs the equivalent of a chicken car; more photos!!
Let's start things off with the one good birthday my mom had; our trip down south.
(There was also a good one around age 14 when she got a cat,
but I seem to not have a picture of that.)
Here she is with Marvelous Mom enjoying Beale Street on our stop in Memphis.
She was drinking water then,
but by the evening we sampled some "swamp punch."
I'm surprised she remembers that birthday, to be honest.
Here are some pictures of my mom when I was young.
Young mom pictures are extremely precious because moms are usually taking the photos, so not a lot exist.
These are my favorites:
Sigh. And I, of course, inherited my father's looks.
I mean, look at her 70s Cher hair. So unfair.
My mom loving a cat.
On the rare occasion she is still, she has a cat near her.
My family is awkward. I am fairly sure you are clear on that by now.
This, of course, translates into awkward photos.
Despite what is going on around her, my mom always soldiers on with a fabulous smile:
Giant zucchini or not, she is gonna give you a real smile.
No fake smiles for her.
In conclusion, my mom is amazing:
Mom, I know today blows. I am sorry about that. Just hang in there and eat some cake that you made, if your hay fever lets you taste it.
Sometime in October we are gonna live it up.
I am learning how to make "swamp punch."