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Me and my five kids celebrating my Birthday Eve

Today is my birthday. As I’ve gotten older, and life more complicated, I notice I play this strange tug-of-war game over my birthday in my head. Not over the fact I’m one year older (though this is beginning to have its tug, too). Rather, over the idea of wanting it to be a great day, but not setting myself up for disappointment when it’s not.

After all, it is just another day. And sometimes, it’s even a Monday (sigh).

It’s another day of teenagers acting like teenagers (this morning they were especially teenager-ey). Another day of schedule conflicts to be worked through (today there happened to be more than normal). Another day of dinner to figure out (made more complicated by the extra complicated schedule), groceries to buy, work to do, teenagers acting like…oh, wait. I already mentioned that one.

Well. Anyway. You see what I mean.

When I was a child, my parents and siblings would come into my room in the morning and sing me Happy Birthday. This was the tradition for each kid. As I got older, I would stay in bed a little longer, just so I could be serenaded before ever having my feet hit the floor. Then, I turned into a teenager who acted all teenager-ey (imagine that), and Happy Birthday happened when I came up for breakfast (I probably would have whined and moaned had everyone come into my sacred bedroom space).

When I grew up and moved away, my parents still called to sing me, Happy Birthday. Every year since before I can remember, my parents have sung to me on my birthday.

This morning, while I was driving my daughter to the ENT (one of the many extra scheduling things thrown in my day), and trying like crazy to stay on the sane side of my mind, my parents called to sing me Happy Birthday. I didn’t hear my phone ring. They sang to my voicemail.

I didn’t listen right away, but I saw they called and I knew why. I also knew once I heard their voices, I’d start crying. I don’t know why. I just knew I would.

Yesterday, my husband surprised me with a day trip to have lunch with my college son who couldn’t come home because he had to play host to football recruits for the weekend. Then we did a family hike (more like a three mile walk along a sandy bike path) to walk across High Bridge, part of the High Bridge State Park Trail System.

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High Bridge in 1850

High Bridge is an historic and storied bridge. It was built in 1853. At that time, it was one of the longest and tallest bridges ever built. It’s also the bridge General Lee’s Confederate Army retreated across, then tried destroying so the Union Army couldn’t pursue them. Union soldiers stopped them, then continued pursuing Lee and his army to Lee’s final surrender point at Appomattox Courthouse only a few days later.

The bridge, of course, is not the same as the original gigantic wooden double decker railway/wagon bridge. Now it is a walking bridge (still wooden) held up by gigantic steel piers. But the brick piers from where the original bridge stood are still erected. You can even look down into them as you cross the bridge and see their hollow middle, like bones broken in half, their hollowed out cores exposed.

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High Bridge Today

It was a great surprise and fun day—unhurried, happily together (as happy as five teenagers can be ‘happily together’). Even the rain held off as we walked along the bike path; everyone walking in his or her own way—strolling, speeding, chatting, gawking at nature (that would be me—only me). But by the end of the day, I was already dreading today. I knew there was much to do, many competing needs, and still those teenagers would be acting like, well, teenagers. I knew it was too much to ask but still, deep down, I wanted my actual birthday day to somehow be special.

Sometimes, it just can’t. And this needs to be okay, too.

Besides, I still have yesterday. My son texted my husband late yesterday evening telling him how glad he was to celebrate my birthday with us; how happy he was we came his way. I keep thinking of this—his weekend was made special because we celebrated my Birthday Eve with him in Farmville. Even now, I smile thinking about it.

Sometime mid-morning, while waiting for my deli order to be ready, I listened to my parents sing Happy Birthday into my phone. And, I cried. It was a good cry. A confessional cry. A cry full of acknowledgement and thanksgiving for the goodness of my birth day. No matter how outwardly special—or not—this particular birthday—or any birthday—can be, my Birth Day continues to be a miracle.

As does yours.