Down East 2013 ©
Well, I just finished my birthday week. Actually I celebrate the whole month, but the week of is especially festive.
I always take my birthday off from work — that goes without saying — and do exactly what I want to do. This year, I hung out in my PJs, watching morning TV while catching up on People magazine and eating strawberry-rhubarb pie (courtesy of my sister, Irene). Then I saw a couple of romantic comedies accompanied by a big bowl of popcorn with a side of Junior Mints. An action-packed morning like that can tucker a gal out, so I indulged in a power nap, followed by a long, hot soak in the tub. Then I got all gussied up, and Charlie and me went to Sky Lodge for dinner. What a great day!
Come Saturday, Celeste, Rita, Betty, Dot, Shirley and me (a.k.a the Women Who Run With the Moose) went to Bangor, where they took me out to lunch and helped me spend my birthday money. And yesterday, we had a nice get-together with Irene, her husband, Jimbo, and my niece and nephew, Caitlin and Jimmy.
Most of the time my birthday happens right after Mother’s Day. But every once in a while, it falls directly on that Sunday, which tends to dampen things a little.
Mother’s Day used to be wonderful when I was a kid. Irene’s birthday is two weeks after mine, and my mother’s sister Alma’s birthday was two days before, so we’d celebrate the three birthdays and Mother’s Day. After Alma died, we continued the tradition, only with two birthday cakes. We’d always buy my Dad presents, too, so he wouldn’t feel left out. Mother’s Day was like a mini-Christmas in our family.
Then I got married, and Mother’s Day, well, it wasn’t quite so much fun. See, Charlie and me, like most couples back then, were looking forward to starting a family. I couldn’t wait to be a Mom, and I knew Charlie would make a wonderful Dad. But time passed, and I kept going to baby showers for all my friends. What is it they say? “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride?” And, believe me, it wasn’t for lack of trying!
Finally, we went to see a doctor down to Bangor. I’ll spare you the details. Lets just say it made things worse. Every few months, getting our hopes up and then being disappointed. It wears you down. In the end, Charlie and me agreed: it just wasn’t meant to be.
Then one evening at supper, (I’ll never forget this), I’d been down in the dumps for weeks, which isn’t like me. So, Charlie puts his hand on mine and says, “Ida, I know it’s hard, but I think it’s time we get on with our life together.”
“You’re right,” I says. “We can’t spend the next fifty years looking back at what might have been.” Suddenly, I could feel something shifting. “Maybe we should make a list of all the things we can do now that we can’t have kids.”
Charlie looks at me and smiles. “That, Sweetheart, is a good idea.”
So that’s what we did. We come up with a list. It was kind of liberating, really. Then we started doing the things on the list. We turned the room that was to be the nursery into my craft workshop, and Charlie bought a new Skilsaw. That’s when we got our first camper and started traveling.
On our tenth anniversary, we renewed our wedding vows. Had a ceremony, a party after, photos, the whole nine yards. I think that’s when our real marriage began. Those first few years were just practice.
I was OK with Mother’s Day after that. ‘Till my Mother died, then it was tough again. Thing is, if you’re a woman of a certain age, people just assume. They wish you “Happy Mother’s Day!” I know they mean it as a cheery wish, but if you don’t have children and your mother’s gone, it’s a reminder.
I’ve just in the past couple of years been able to hear “Happy Mother’s Day!” and think, Well, yes it is. I’m happy to have had a mother I can miss so much. Happy to have Caitlin and Jimmy, and my nieces and nephews on Charlie’s side. I’m happy to have our little dog, Scamp. And I’m especially happy my birthday wasn’t on Mother’s Day this year!
On that note, there’s one last piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie left, and it’s calling my name.
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here. )