A Grown-Up Birthday
By Stacey Jones
On my thirty-second birthday, I was expecting my first child. I was born near the end of the month, as he eventually would be, but I was my mother's second child. In other words, she tended to be fuzzy on the details of my birth and childhood.
I now instinctively understand why. The newness of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood indelibly printed all the milestones of my first son's early years on my own memory. My second son? Not so much. It's an occupational hazard of motherhood.
Still, at the very least, I hoped that on this day my mother would remember my actual birth date, which had seemed to elude her ever since I stopped reminding her of it in that insistent way children, teenagers, and young adults do. After all, hadn't she been present at my birth? And since I was the child who irritated her at least half as much as my older brother did, her chirpy reminders of his date of birth every year left me stung.
My husband wasn't any better. The subtle hints and gentle reminders of the impending anniversary of my birth were getting stale after three years of marriage.
This was the year I drew a line in the sand. I would say nothing to anyone. Then I waited on the other side to see whether either one of them would remember the day. But neither did.
I waited in vain for a call at work. I sat at home alone that evening while my husband worked his usual late hours and my mother went off to her own job. My baby, who had already taken me through a bout of preterm labor and had wedged himself into the correct position for birth a month earlier, stuck a tiny foot into the bottom of my rib cage. I took my thumb and gently pushed at the area above my very large belly, hoping he would dislodge it.
And then, around nine, the phone rang. I heard the big, booming voice clearly through the receiver, even though it came from 1,000 miles away. "Happy Birthday, Stacle." It was my father. The use of his childhood nickname for me made me acutely aware of just how important a date my birth had been and was still for him. My father was one of the gruffest people I have ever known, but I've always been sure that I was the light of his life. At first I knew how much he loved me because my mother always told me so. When he fussed at me after I hurt myself in some way as a child, I would go to my mother for consolation, and she would say, "It's because he loves you so much."
Both my parents did. But with long distance rates the way they were then, I knew my father had been waiting all day to make that phone call. And because of that, I had never felt more loved in my life.
Later that evening when my mother was on her break, she called from work to wish me a happy birthday. "You forgot," I gently teased, still buoyed by the call from my dad. She admitted she had, then said, "I guess I'm so excited about the baby that it did slip my mind."
Stacey Jones is the chair of the Center for Women Advisory Council and the associate director for editorial with Emory Creative Group.