Today, as I do on all of my birthdays, I opened up the cupboard in my home office and pulled out a box that sits there gathering dust. I rubbed my hand across the top of the box, lingering for a moment, pausing for a second to savour this thing that I do only once a year.
It’s a box of birthday cards from my mother. Ever since I can remember, on my birthday she writes me a card. Sometimes it’s long and prose-like, other years it’s short and loving. But every year no matter what, no matter where I’ve been in the world, her cards have been a moment I always look forward to.
I don’t remember the birthday gifts. I don’t remember the cake or the parties. But I do remember the cards and how they make me feel. I want to share the one from August 2nd, 1994 when I turned 16. She writes:
The stars are yours
although you can’t always see them
because of bright sunny days when you’re blinded by happiness
or dark stormy days when heavy clouds hide them
but the stars are still there
holding your past moments
lying on the dock at camp, paddling our lake one long ago August night, tenting on a beach in Tofino, B.C.
every night of your life as you have slept and we have loved you
and they’re out there now, as you turn 16
each star holding a moment of your future
so reach high
gather all you can
by the handful, hundreds, thousands, millions
no matter how many – what you will find will be a small measure of the love, joy & sunshine that you’ve brought to my life, and to your dad’s.”
Her words get me every time. She has always made me feel loved, adored and connected to something unconditional. This is not something I have fully appreciated until now. But the more I have come to know me – what I want, who I am, what makes me feel alive – the more I have listened to the whispers within. And this act of nurturing my soul has exponentially deepened my capacity to love those close to me. My husband. My children.
My magical little star beings.
This year on my birthday, I see them for who they are. Not for who I wanted them to be. And I believe this is what’s in the words of my mother’s cards each and every year. She saw me. She still sees me. I think all she has ever wanted has been for me to just be me.
I’ve reached high for so many stars in my life already. So many dreams. So many adventures. So many moments that I’ve wanted to experience and capture and hold as memory. But of all of my adventures, the one that sustains me the most is the relationship I have grown with myself.
Three years ago on my birthday, I got really irritated at my husband when I felt like he hadn’t made a big enough deal about my birthday. I can’t remember the exact details but I’m sure I had made a list of what I wanted to be given and what I wanted to be fed. I imagine I wanted him to clean the house and organize a party and make it exactly how I had cooked it all up in my mind.
I suspect that is was near to impossible for him to meet my expectations.
I do love receiving gifts. I always have. But you know? After spending the better part of my adult life seeking – always wanting a higher paying job, a bigger house, a nicer car, shiny jewelry, pretty clothes, a skinnier body and well behaved children to name a few – I’ve realized that when I require someone else to give me something or do something for me so I can be happy, I’m setting myself (and the other person) up for failure.
So last year I told him I didn’t want anything for my birthday and he looked at me like I was ill. “You don’t mean that. I know you. You want stuff,” he said.
But I really didn’t. I still don’t. I meant it then and this year I mean it again. Because love is the gift. It has always been the gift and it will always be the gift.
This year on my 39th birthday, what I desire is love that nurtures and sustains so that I may have the capacity to expand this love outwards to the people in my life. I’m pretty sure that can’t be bought.
This year, I fill my soul full of starlight love. That intangible essence that lives within.