A Note to my Mother: Why I Don’t Want Anything on my Birthday
My mom called to wish me a happy birthday and asked me what I wanted. “I don’t want anything,” I said.
“Well, are you doing anything special for your birthday?”
Through the phone I could actually hear her shaking her head in disbelief. ”You’re not going out to eat?
“No, Mom, we go out to eat all the time, it’s actually nice to just stay home and be with the boys.”
“You’re not having a cake or anything?” she asked.
“Like I really need the calories.”
“Well, you could just eat a bite. Why don’t you go out and buy yourself something special?”
“I have everything I need. There is nothing I want,” I said.
The conversation continued like this until my sister Kim called in on the other line and rescued me from trying to explain what I couldn’t explain and what Mom couldn’t understand.
At this point in my life, it’s not about the things. It’s about the people. And I feel so blessed to be living a life in relationship with people who make me want to get up every morning and engage the world around me in whatever way that day brings.
For example, my mom doesn’t know about the friends who I consider family at my son’s old school, American Heritage Academy, and that for ten years we’ve worked and dreamed together about a new gym and performing arts center. So she can’t understand how exciting it was that yesterday for the very first time we were in that building beginning to live out ten years of dreams. That was a special day. My birthday is just a day.
She doesn’t know that the church I’ve been attending for the past two years has brought me into relationship with some creative and talented people who want to change the world and who occasionally allow me to work with them to do that. And that for the past few weeks I’ve worked alongside them to prepare that new AHA building so the church to could call it home on Sundays. The long days and very late nights working alongside these people as we shared our stories and dreamed about the future were special days. My birthday is just another day.
She isn’t here to see what an incredible son I have and how proud I am to be his mother, but more importantly how cool he is to hang out with. Or how supportive my husband is of all the things that I do. How he encourages me even when he has to sacrifice to let me do it. Or how rare this is in a culture that elevates the me above the us, devalues marriage, and throws away children.
She hasn’t looked over my shoulder at the incredible projects I’ve been privileged to work on or met the amazing people I’ve written with and about. And so she can’t know how satisfying it feels that everyday I get to do work that I love and that has meaning.
There’s no way she can see my inbox filled with over 75 (and counting) Facebook messages, email greetings, and birthday e-cards and know that each one of them represents a story and a relationship that I am a part of. That the people behind these names have encouraged me, challenged me, helped me grow, laughed with me, cried with me, strengthened me, and changed me for the better.
She doesn’t understand the relationship I have with my Creator or know what it feels like to see what he did in my life years ago come to fruition now. Or how something he planned for me to be a part of was revealed in bits and pieces until a masterpiece was unfolded and I was in the center of it. Anytime that happens I am awestruck and the word special doesn’t do justice to describing how I feel.
So I don’t blame her for not understanding why I don’t want anything for my “special day.”
What she doesn’t know is that everyday of my life is special. Everyday I get better than I deserve. Not only am I filled up by the people around me, I am filled up to the point that I overflow and get to share it with others. My life has meaning and purpose, and my story is a part of a much bigger story.
And so when I say there is nothing on my wish list, it’s not to belittle my birthday, it’s to elevate every other day into the extraordinary day that I feel it is. What Mom doesn’t know is that I am happy and even when I’m not happy I’m always filled with the deep indescribable joy of loving others and knowing I am loved. And most importantly, that I know the source of that joy. There is no restaurant meal, cake, or special something that money can buy that tops that.
So no, Mom. I am not doing anything special for my birthday because every day of my life is special and my hope and prayer is that one day you’ll understand why.
7 Responses to “A Note to my Mother: Why I Don’t Want Anything on my Birthday”
Happy Belated Birthday!!
Thanks Bluestocking. I visited your website and especially liked the Darth Vadar essay on POV. I bookmarked it for future reference.
I also love L’Occitane!
That’s an awesome post, Jennifer.
I LOVE IT!
[...] Why I don’t want anything on my birthday – by Jennifer Schuchmann [...]
Jennifer, I work at Shelby Systems and am excited to know that you will be at ISC, 2010 in Atlanta. I just read your “Note to Mother” and just LOVED it! So true in every aspect. I know the feeling. Only thing is, my dear sweet mother is no longer here to have that conversation with. But…she learned about WHO the source of my joy was before she went home to Heaven, so she now understands!
Have a blessed day and Happy Belated Birthday!!
Your work is AMAZING! I could stare at your photos for hours. I can’t wait to meet you in person! (And thanks for the comment!)