It was my birthday on the weekend. I was up before everyone else, as I often am. I let the cat out, and surveyed the still-dark garden in my socks. I love our garden in the early morning. Beyond the garden walls are the rustlings of pre-dawn morning; birds, stretching and yawning. But inside my little oasis, all is still and silent. The daisies are shut-tight, fast asleep.
My socks left a trail of wet footprints through the playroom as I came back inside, because the grass had been wet from overnight rain and I hadn't noticed. I filled the kettle and flipped it on, then unpacked the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen a bit while I waited for it to boil. Poured a cup of tea and carried it into my office, then sat down to work on my book. After about an hour of typing, I realised my cup of tea was empty and I couldn't think who might have drunk it. I took the empty cup back into the kitchen, flipped the kettle on, and waited for it to boil again. While I was waiting Mr B came downstairs and said "Happy birthday," and that was when I remembered this was a "special day."
Off and on throughout the rest of the day, while Scout made me chocolate birthday cupcakes with florescent pink icing and sprinkles, in her favourite Peppa Pig casings, I got to thinking about birthdays. Here are some of my thoughts.
One. People are worth celebrating. It doesn't have to be a birthday, but birthdays are always a good place to start. There's nothing wrong with choosing a day to make much of someone you love. I feel the same way about supposedly-commercial holidays, like Mother's Day and Father's Day and Valentine's Day: so what if they were created by greeting card companies? It's still a good reminder to celebrate the people we love.
Two. I should feel ok about celebrating myself. I shouldn't feel embarrassed to say "It's my birthday" and let people give me hugs or wish me happy birthday or come over for dinner. That's NICE. Why am I so embarrassed / ashamed about being celebrated? I'm totally up for celebrating YOU, I just feel very awkward when it comes to celebrating me.
Three. After I had Scout, I had an a-ha moment about birthdays. I mean I totally got it, at last. Birthdays are MASSIVE deals for the parents of the birthday boy or girl. As far as Scout was concerned, her first birthday was about seeing people she loved, getting presents, eating chocolate cake, playing with balloons, and singing a strange song. All of those are nice things, I'm sure you'll agree, but not exactly deep. That's all birthdays will ever mean to a lot of us. After all, none of us remembers not existing.
But for me, Scout's first birthday was a phenomenal marker of an event (her birth!) that was long-anticipated, extremely hard-won (they don't call it "labour" for nothing), and resulted me creating, growing, nurturing and pushing into the world an actual human being who wasn't there before, and now is, and thinks and laughs and cries and creates and loves. I did that and I'm doing that and that, my friends, is PROFOUND.
So the next time someone glibly says "Oh, the first birthday is more about the parents than the child," so what? Hell yeah it is! Let them celebrate, let them go ridiculously, ostentatiously over the top if they want to. Because for the parents, that first birthday marks the remembrance and the continuance of unfathomable mysteries. Life where there wasn't life. Love that you didn't know you had in you. That birthday and every birthday to follow it marks a turning-point in the life's journey of the parents, after which nothing will ever be the same again.
This weekend, and every year on my birthday and on Scout's birthday and on Ralph's birthday, I think about my mother.