Monday, February 4, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today is my mother's birthday. She's... erm... older. But quite young, as far as parents go. Both of my parents are. Whenever I tell people how old (or young) they are, people invariably say, "That's so young!"

Growing up, I didn't know whether to be proud or annoyed when people would say that. Despite their relative youth, my parents--and my mother especially--were exactly that: parents. They were just as strict and structured with us as the parents my friends had who always seemed so much older than my mom and dad.

My mother taught us that life is full of choice and with the ability to choose came accountability and responsibility. We were often admonished to be thoughtful and give proper consideration to any decisions we made because all choices comes with consequences. Over the years, this has served me well. (It has also been a liability at times as I can over analyze and that can leave me stuck trying to figure out all the 'what ifs' before moving forward.)

More than the rules and boundaries and manners and considerations my mother taught us, she also has given us the gift of laughter. There's rarely an occasion where we don't laugh while we're together. This evening was again such an occasion.

Mom really likes the Geico Gecko. She often says she'd like to have a conversation with him, which just cracks up me and my siblings. Last week, I asked Mom what she'd like for her birthday dinner. "Schnitzel," she said. And then, as an aside, she said, "I wish the Geico Gecko would come to my birthday dinner." (Her favorite ad right now is the one where the little guy is talking to a jellyfish. As the jelly floats past him, he says in his lilting Cockney accent, "Is that your face? (Long pause) Nah, that's your belly button, in'it?")

So, I came home and went to Geico's website where I found their little shop of hilarity and bought Mom a bunch of gecko goodies. They featured in our laughter tonight, as did much of whatever was the conversation.

Even when life is hard--and right now, it's particularly hard for her. My father has been unemployed for a year. I'm unemployed right now. The house my parents live in has been in unending remodel mode for 10 years (my dad's damn lucky my mom stays married to him. I'd have long kicked him to the curb by now. But that's for another day)--she continually manages to laugh and keep us laughing.

I think that's probably one of the greatest gifts she's given us: the ability to be serious, but not take ourselves seriously and to laugh all the way. As she often says, it's better than the alternative.

Mom laughing at her Christmas present from my brother.
I forget to get out the camera this evening to take pictures of her delight and laughter
at all the gecko goodies we got her. I'm pretty upset about that myself. Oh well.

Happy birthday, Mom!


hm-uk said...

Hey, who got the brilliant gift of crayons? Lucky, sheeesh!

di said...

OMG, you look just like her!! I have never seen a photo that looks so similar to you...only older of course.

Glad you're laughing, it does my heart good from clear over here even.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

HM: That was my gift to my sister for Christmas last year (2007). We try to have a theme for gift giving each year, now that we're older. This past year we chose, "Memories from our Childhood." When I asked her what her "favorite Christmas gift ever" was, she said, crayons and coloring books. So, that's what I got her. She's been using them, too, I'm happy to report!

Di: I have to agree with you. In fact, the summer before last when I was working on that DVD Christmas gift for her, I watched some footage from my grandmother's funeral. At one point, there was a shot of my mom sitting with her sisters and dad at their mom's graveside. For a split second I thought it was me. Kind of scary sometimes how alike we look.

As for laughing, I'm trying to do as much of that as possible...

Jess said...

Happy birthday to your mom! This post is so sweet.

Anonymous said...

I had the exact same initial reaction as Di--it looks like you, only older. Gee, I wish I looked so much like my mom!

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Jess: Thank you! We have a running joke in our family that I "use to be so sweet." Next time one of them says that to me, I'm going to tell them I have confirmation of that!

JA: It has it's advantages and disadvantages, but overall, I'm happy to look like her. According to Di, I also look like my mother's dad, but I don't see it. Still, that's a nice compliment, too.

Anonymous said...

Your mom is pretty -- and lucky to have such fun offspring. She sure did pass along her sense of humor :)

I think that's one thing I like about my mom as well.

- Phoebe

j.m. tewkesbury said...

Phoebe: Thank you. She doesn't think she's pretty, but we all think she is. I'm glad I grew up with humor. Some times, it's the only thing that keeps me sane.

ME said...

Wow, you DO look a lot like your mom! Total double take.

I feel mixed when people say I look like my mom; it's my fear of getting jowly/chin wattley as I age.

I'm glad y'all have gut-splitting good times together.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

ME: I know what you mean. I worry about looking like my dad who is starting to look more and more like his mother. She's a bitter woman and the bitterness is starting to show on him, too. It's not a pleasant look. Every time I look at him, I think, I hope I never look like that!

Phoenix Touch said...

What a wonderful tribute, Jay! Thank you for sharing. I am really feeling the poignant contrast, however, between your feelings of your family and my feelings about mine. Especially after the exchange you and I have had with MY brother over on my blog... sigh


J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Abgue: Believe me, I have some very ambivalent feelings about my own family. They're very TBM, which I respect their right to be, and I--obviously--am not. I have stories I could tell from the last seven years of my life that would make you cringe. In other words, my relationship with my family is a mixed bag. There was a time a few years ago, when I wasn't welcome in their home. It's taken a lot of work to get where we are (and most of the work, I think, has been on my part.)

All that said, I do love 'em. But yeah, I can totally relate to where you're at right now. Like I said before, it's wrong and it sucks. Hang in there!