I celebrated my birthday the other day. Having a birthday right before Christmas was painful for me growing up. It sort of got lost in the hustle and bustle of the holiday. It’s so close to Christmas we were never in school during my birthday, so I never got to celebrate with my friends. As I got older my friends would give me the same present they got for all of our friends at Christmas, only mine would be accompanied by “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!”
One of the things that bothered me most as a child was when I received a birthday present wrapped in Christmas paper.
It seems a silly thing–and indeed now with more life experience and perspective, it IS a silly thing. But as other December-born will attest, it was really a metaphor for a day that was important to me getting lost so close to that other, far more significant day, the day that is important (and rightly so) to the entire world.
In any case, my disappointment over that must have lingered with my mother, who apologized for it long past when I myself got over it.
What I wish my mother knew was how much her other birthday rituals meant to me.
The first is a song. The Best Gift, by Barbra Streisand. I put that song on my Spotify Christmas playlist and it came up quite a bit leading up to the holidays. It’s a beautiful reminder of something I could never have understood until I was expecting my own firstborn. The anticipation of an infant child. A tiny human being so dependent on you and for whom the love you discover in your heart is simply unimaginable and beautifully overwhelming.
The second is a special breakfast. She called it eggs over toast with gravy. I later discovered it appears to be a variation of what’s known in culinary circles as Eggs Benedict. Only the eggs are boiled and sliced instead of poached. They were served over hand-torn toast instead of English muffins (it’s better that way). And the gravy was a basic white sauce instead of Hollandaise.
Still, even as a child, I felt the love. And it is my go-to breakfast on days when for whatever reason I find myself at home instead of rushing off to work and in need of some comfort.
And I make it for myself on my birthday.
Because it reminds me of Mom. And of being loved and cared for in that way that only a mother does.
[Day 57 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]