Tale Tues: The Rotten Birthday

Some birthdays rot.

Really. When our family members can actually treat them like ordinary days. As if they have forgotten, despite our foibles, our crappy moods and possibly odd habits of collecting odd socks in wicker baskets, that they are super blessed by our earthly presence.

This year, we were all snowed in on my birthday. No school. Even Daddy couldn’t get to work.

For some reason I’d slept late. Hubby nodded at me over his coffee. His laptop screen beckoned.

“It’s my birthday,” I said.

He got up then to kiss me, as if I’d reminded him of an appointment. “I know. Happy birthday!”

Big Bro in his football footy pajamas, was already on his computer playing Minecraft, with earbuds in.

I took out an earbud and screeched in his ear: “It’s my birthday.”

“Oh! Happy Birthday Mommy!”

He put back in his ear bud.

Little Bro was the only one to wish me a Happy Birthday without prodding – which only reminded him that his own birthday is coming up “soon” (April for goodness sakes) and started telling me what kind of cake he would like, and what tiny little Brick Lego machine guns he wants me to order for him on Amazon, there’s a whole “packet” and it’s only fifteen bucks or something. . . .

Then came my presents!

Daddy is usually superb when it comes to gifts. He will even pay Macy’s to wrap them.

Not this year. No fancy gold lacy bows. And in an unfancy Macy’s box, a fourth pair of black pants – he’d just given me my third pair at Christmas.

“I already have black pants.”

He told me there’s something different about these, I don’t remember what.

In another Macy’s box: A matronly button-down plaid shirt. One whose red sales sticker he’d failed to entirely scrape off.

And the boys. They flapped handmade cards in my face; I love when my children make me cards. But not these, pencil greetings scribbled on construction paper maybe about ten minutes prior to this flapping presentation. Big Bro’s penciled scribbled sarcasm made my teeth ache: “You’re 20!!!” (Most days leading up to my birthday he had liked to remind me that I no longer will be 50.)

So it was time to throw a tantrum, and I did. “It’s my birthday!”

I reminded my boys of all the effort I put into their birthdays, the special home parties I throw and treasure hunts, and all the $$$ we spend on their electronic toys… and as for you Daddy, why didn’t you get on their case? And at 51, am I too old for a blouse that doesn’t button up to my chin??

I achieved the effect I was looking for: I humbled all the boys, large and little, in my family. Even the boy dog who didn’t need humbling, slunk under the table.

“My birthday was terrible,” I told my mother when I visited her next day. I was whining like a little girl who didn’t even get to play musical chairs at her birthday party.

And my mother felt terrible that my birthday was terrible as only a mother can. “Oh that’s terrible!” But then she brightened. “Well, Christine has a surprise for you.”

Christine? Her aide?

She leaned in to whisper to me. “She’s very excited about it. You have to know how excited she is. She made you a cake. Did you know she bakes? She’s even been to baking school.”

My mother is truly one of the most generous hearted people I’ve ever known. And for the first time, she seemed able to look past her resentment of this stranger now living in her house. Past her frustration in having to face up to the fact that she must now have someone help her to dress and bathe and wash all her sheets when she spills an entire mug of morning coffee – or a full gallon of liquid detergent when she can still insist on doing her own laundry. She was able to look past these cold facts to the one about her aide being an individual with feelings; one deserving of appreciation and admiration for her thoughtful baking efforts.

Her aide was indeed very proud of the cake, having had to “improvise” without her usual baking “tools,” shaping the flower petals with icing squeezed from a plastic sandwich bag, and edging the cake with the ridges of a paper towel.

The cake was truly impressive, and I shouldn’t have been surprised that this bright woman would have dreams beyond quelling frustrated elderly who might slam their bedroom doors in her face or insist on doing their own laundry so she gets to mop up gallons of slippery detergent.

So my mother and her live-in aide had made a “party” of it. Together. My mother had remembered one of her favorite tablecloths from when she was still able to entertain, one I’d forgotten about, but that she thought matched the cake, with its oranges and yellows:



And the three of us sat down together to eat the cake. Congenially. In peace. A peace that has been hard to achieve since my mother has had to adjust to this very difficult phase in her life, one of slow but steady deterioration and utter loss of independence.

My mother’s short term memory is . . . short. But not it seems, when it comes to those things that matter – like the fact that this woman who takes such good care of her, whether my mother wants to be taken care of or not, went to the trouble to make her daughter’s birthday more special than it would have been.

My mother remembered the cake for days afterwards. And that was the best present to me; to have my mother back. Oriented – right there for me, her daughter, as these days, most days, I must be the one there for her.

As to my boys: they learned a valuable lesson, that they are not privileged. As blessed as we most certainly are by their presence, they are no more or less deserving than anyone else on this precious earth. So Daddy took them out to pick out plants, balloons and cards for Momma, deeply heartfelt apologetic ones:




Daddy and I wound up having a nice dinner date, and he gave me a Pandora gift card, along with the gift receipts so I can go back and exchange the matronly for the more revealing. After all. I’m only 20 (smiley face here).



My first novel now available on Amazon:newblueglasscover2


About Sandra

Author;editor of The Woven Tale Press at thewoventalepress.net; mother; weaver
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10 Responses to Tale Tues: The Rotten Birthday

  1. Sandy, no matter how your birthday went, you aren’t any less important to those who care about you. I’m not dishing out excuses. Hell, I forgot your birthday and it was on my damn calendar (FaceBook likes putting stuff on my calendar). But I didn’t forget the G+ birthday reminder. Anyway it’s not about my excuses. 🙂

  2. That is so nice, Sandra! So happy you had a good birthday with your mother and that wonderful aide you’ve found! Do everything you can to keep her happy! And belated happy birthday from me too, by the way!

  3. Jo Heroux says:

    Good for you! Really good for you to get your mom back for such a special gift! Ya know, blowing up at the family for not appreciating you IS a valuable lesson and for some moms a really hard one to give. I did it once and was never sorry. I cried while explaining (yelling) to my ungrateful offspring that I was sick, needed them to help and if they couldn’t give me that to get away from me and stop asking for ANYTHING. Told them if they wanted something done, DO it and leave me to sleep. I never had to give the I-do-so-much-for-you-guys speech again. It was quite long, quite loud and I was miserable. They remember that day. So do I. My much less selfish children were a pleasure after it was over and I was vertical again.
    And I’m very glad your birthday(s) turned out to be such a wonderful gift. ❤️

  4. kgwaite says:

    Oh, I did love this piece. Especially this:

    “I took out an earbud and screeched in his ear: “It’s my birthday.”

    “Oh! Happy Birthday Mommy!”

    He put back in his ear bud.

    Happy birthday and go get that new shirt.

  5. Awesome post, Sandra.
    I think all us wives/mothers have had birthdays like the one you had at home….ugh!
    But the party your mother had for you brought tears to my eyes! So, so sweet and loving. And I’m so glad she has the live-in help. I hope that eases things for you somewhat.
    Love the tablecloth – made me smile! Just like my mother would have done!
    You are blessed!

  6. Awww, sounds like it turned out to be a wonderful birthday, despite how it started!

    Happy Birthday! 🙂

  7. PS Love the title of your post, too!

  8. Wylie says:

    Sorry the day itself was not better, but so happy your tale had a happy ending! Love you!

  9. I’m glad you spoke up and the boys (of all ages) learned a valuable lesson about the valuable woman in their life! And how sweet and lovely to have such a nice birthday celebration with your mother and her aide. I’m so happy it all worked out in the end.

  10. Debbie says:

    So glad your birthday was salvaged and that all your boys were suitably ashamed. 🙂 I can relate to your stories about your Mom. My mother always sounds cheerful and knows who I am, but doesn’t remember my birthday or even her own. The caregiver you found appears to be a real gem and the cake looks delicious! Happy Birthday (a little late)!

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