Culture

Happy Birthday to Me: Thanks Mom

About eight years ago a colleague of mine told me of a special gesture he used to do for his wife on her birthday. He would send flowers to his mother in-law thanking her for giving birth to his beautiful wife. I was dumfounded. Until that point, birthdays were always about the person whose birthday one was celebrating. My birthdays were about me, of course.  I became obsessed with my gemstone-the emerald. Green doesn’t even really look good on me due to my skin tone, but per my birthday, I grew up believing emeralds rock.

Now that I am a mom, when I celebrate my son’s birthday I want to go all out-ecstatic at the fact that he exists and is wonderful. But for a few moments, I do think about the day I gave birth to him and relive those 12 minutes of active labor. Yes, I am mildly boasting about my quick labor. But in all fairness my pregnancy was a very hard one in which I experienced morning sickness for seven full months. But back to my son’s birthday.   There truly is no day more joyous.   Poor child, though, his birthday lies at the end of summer.  As a result, I recently learned about “half birthday” celebrations. A half birthday is the day six months before a person’s birth.  Many of those that celebrate this half day do so because their birthday  falls near a major holiday such as Christmas and they may be thus forgotten.  My son will probably begin celebrating his half birthday so that he could have a school celebration.

A person’s birthday or half birthday is not just about that one specific individual.  A birthday is more than a day when a person celebrates the anniversary of his or her birth. It’s a day to recognize various milestones achieved to date and the importance of key significant others that helped reached those birthdays.  According to some religious individuals the anniversary of a person’s birth is a special day for that person’s prayers to be accepted.  Perhaps that is why we make special wishes when we blow out the birthday cake candles. Although, once you reach a certain age, do you still place birthday candles on the cake?  At this point in life, I actually rather have banana pudding than a birthday cake. My son, who is just four, cannot stand birthday cakes. Give him a gummy mound and then we’re talking.

Birthdays tend to be major occurrences in most people’s lives throughout the world. In most countries, one becomes designated as an adult on a particular birthday. In the United States we become eligible to enlist in the military at the age of 18, and we can legally purchase (or consume) alcohol at the age of 21. Oddly and interestingly, in North Korea people do not celebrate birthdays on July 8 and December 17 because these were the dates of the deaths of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il respectively.  Did you know that a person born on July 8 before 1994 in North Korea may change their birthday, with official recognition?  Furthermore, in North Korea on July 9 and December 18, more than 100,000 North Koreans celebrate their newly anointed birthdays as a result of not being allowed to observe their original birthday.  I keep thinking about the poor mothers who gave birth on those days. They labored hour upon hour to only have that hard work, that special day, discounted.

Speaking of unpopular birthdates.  Here in the United States, the birthday of May 2 is actually not a very popular (meaning widely occurring) one. It is ranked number 305 out of all possible birthday dates. Meaning there are 304 other dates in which more people were born than May 2nd. Bing Crosby was born on May 2nd.  So was David Beckham, Benjamin Spock, Mika Brzezinski, and Donatella Versace. Not bad company for me to be in considering that May 2nd is not a very popular birthday occurrence.  In the year 2000, President Bill Clinton announces that accurate GPS access would no longer be restricted to the United States military.  Amazing how such an act has changed our lives dramatically.  Two years ago, Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed on May 2nd.  It was an incredibly odd feeling to see the jubilation out in the streets of New York City celebrating the death of someone as I was celebrating my birthday. That day, May 2nd 2011 was also the first birthday celebration without my mom.

Every birthday, I was sure to get both a musical birthday card from my mom and a telephone call where she would sing me a birthday song and joke about my aging process. She took such joy in observing my birthday. She couldn’t help but sing me a song. Today I got up and there was no phone call from my mom. No phone call where I could thank her for giving me birth and for raising me well in such hard conditions. No mommy to sing me happy birthday. But my son did sing to me, without any prompting, while all covered in peanut butter dripping milk onto his shirt.

Thanks mom for giving birth to me on this date decades ago. It’s a good day. I was always meant to be a strong-headed leader. That’s what she told me that my birthdate meant.  There is even a painting called  The Second of May 1808 (AKA The Charge of the Mamelukes) by the renowned Francisco Goya.  The Art piece depicts a scene during the Dos de Mayo Uprising, at the Calle de Alcalá near Puerta del Sol. I got to see that painting firsthand at the Prado Museum in Madrid because of all the sacrifices my mother made in order for me to attend private high school in Spain. She was sad to have me leave home at such an early age but in doing so she let me experience the world. That is why my birthday is a celebration of her great efforts in life. Thanks mom.

happy birthday -thanks mom

happy birthday -thanks mom

You can search here for the ranking of your particular birthdate. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/19/business/20leonhardt-table.html?_r=0

18 replies »

  1. Happy belated birthday psychologist Mimi! I’ve been stalking your fabulous blog, but apparently missed the most important day for you. I’m thankful for the many insightful articles you’ve written and look forward to many more!

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