Burning candle

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Tracey Columns

I kind of marvel at how some parents decide to celebrate their children’s birthdays these days. Forget “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” of yesteryear. Now an entire herd of thoroughbreds may be trucked into the neighborhood for a bunch of three-year-olds … half of whom are afraid of horses.

Pardon my cynicism. It isn’t very becoming. But am I the only one who thinks that some kids’ birthday parties are a little over the top? What happened to celebrating a child’s birth with a simple gathering of friends, a few silly games, some favors, a lousy rendition of “Happy Birthday” and cake? Yes, I am sounding like an old lady, lost in how things used to be. Guilty as charge!

What has me on my soapbox today? Interestingly, it actually has to do with my mother’s 87th birthday. Now here’s a woman deserving of a herd of thoroughbreds, maybe more! Given her stature in our family, we are all gathering to give her a very special day. I have to admit that by some standards, our plans may strike some people as being over the top but honestly, when you’re an amazing 87 year old, I don’t think there’s any such thing as “over the top”!

At my mother’s request, those of us who can get to town will spend the entire day cruising San Diego harbor on my brother’s beautiful boat. It will be a day of sightseeing, good food, some lively reminiscing and plenty of laughter. By her accounting, it’s going to be “the perfect birthday.”

If anyone deserves a special celebration, our mother sure does! She was a single parent in the days of “Father Knows Best.” Not one to complain, she supported her two kids by putting in very long hours as a grocery clerk. One of her talents?  Stretching a dollar to the ends of the earth. Another memorable trait? She’d manage to have a smile on her face when she dragged herself home after a grueling day on the express lane. Amazing!

Our dear mother also taught us the value of tight family bonds, hard work, and kindness. This woman, who didn’t have the easiest childhood, managed to instill in my brother and me the magic of reaching for the stars! And, if all of these fantastic life lessons weren’t enough? On Sundays, when no one was anywhere near the junior high, she’d plunk us down in her lap as she sat behind the wheel of her ’51 Ford, and give us our first driving lessons! (We could see over the wheel … but we sure couldn’t reach the pedals. I doubt there are many places you could get away with this these days.)

Yes, I think that by the time you have lived such an inspiring life, at 87 you should get just about anything your little old birthday heart desires. For my mom, this means family and boating. It promises to be a wonderful day and I believe, the perfect way to celebrate someone who has done so much for so many.

Now, back to those kids … here’s my point. If we give our children and grandchildren so much, so soon, what will they want and expect as they grow older? Whether it’s an extravagant birthday party for a toddler, an expensive phone for a tween, or an over-the-top trip for a teen, making sure our generosity towards our kids and grandkids actually matches their age and needs can be one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

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