“Sometimes you’re just too charming for your own good,” my mother says, smiling at me affectionately as she scoots her chair around the table so she can sit in the late afternoon sun. “You get that from your father.”
I just grin and wink at her, leaning back in my chair and dropping my sunglasses on my face before scanning the menu.
“You get that wink from him too.”
She thinks I charmed the manager at one of our favorite restaurants into opening the patio – which was ridiculously closed on a sunny, warm afternoon in April – but really all I did was smile and ask very politely. And no matter how much she may scoff at my patio-opening abilities, she’s the one who wanted to sit out here. “It’s such a lovely day,” she said when we arrived, “I wish we could eat our lunch on the patio.”
My mother knows my soft spots – she put them there, after all.
“What can I get for you ladies?” the server appears out of no where and I listen to my mom order before I place mine.
“I’d like a piece of black-bottom banana pie.”
“Blair, for lunch?” my mother scolds.
I look at my mother and then back at the waitress. “Yep, pie for lunch. Good pie, too. It’s my birthday.”
I’ve been pulling the ‘it’s my birthday’ card for about three weeks now. (While most people are OK with just a day or a weekend, I like to stretch my birthdays out as long as possible … regardless of my age.) And for three weeks, every person around me when I use this excuse rolls their eyes and makes some sort of under-the-breath comment that it isn’t really my birthday.
Elliott put up with it for about eight days before announcing he was ready to call a moratorium on the whole month of April. My dad tried to tell me that “birthdays between 25 and 30 don’t really matter. You have to wait for the big birthdays now – the ones that end in zeros.” My sister has been wishing me a Happy 25th birthday all week. I’m not, in fact, turning 25.
So as the birthday excuse falls from my lips, I wait for the inevitable grumbles that will follow. But I’ve momentarily forgotten my present company. My mother simply smiles at me and turns back to our waitress. “The birthday girl wants pie.”
My mother has always been big on birthdays. When my younger brother and I were kids, birthdays meant elaborate parties involving clowns and magicians, decorations and multiple cakes. As we got older birthdays translated into long-weekend trips, and even now when neither of us live at home, birthdays mean piles and piles of gifts, birthday lunches and dinners, and general over-indulgences. The fact that I am now officially in my late 20s is of no matter to my mother. She spoils me just the same.
Last year, I celebrated my birthday with a rare occurrence in my adult life: dinner with both of my parents at the same time. At some point during the meal my dad was laughing at my mother’s antics as she pulled out gift after gift and so he asked her, “For goodness sakes, she’s an adult. Why do you continue to carry on like this for her birthdays?”
Mom’s answer was immediate and straightforward. She smiled at my father and then ran her hand down my long ponytail. “Because she hung the stars in the sky. And because she lets me. Why would I give up time and attention with my only daughter when it only gets more rare as she grows up.”
I get a lot of things from my father. My mother says that given any situation, I can charm my way into an ocean view room. She says I’m funny like he is; she says I have his smile. Mom says I have my father’s ability to see the positive in most every situation and his capacity to weather even the strongest of storms. She also usually mumbles something about me inheriting his short temper.
And all of that may be true, depending on the day.
But I think I have my mother’s smile. I have her sense of humor and her gift for seeing the good in people. My mother taught me the importance of reading and writing and sharing stories with people. She used to say that no matter how big the dream, it never had to stay just a dream. My mom taught me manners and kindness, and that’s what usually gets me what I want – like patio tables on beautiful April afternoons – not charm. Mom showed me how to hang stars. I have my mom’s ability to be quiet and alone – two things that terrify most people and two things that are rapidly disappearing in our world. Things become clearer when outside noise is hushed. You see yourself clearer when you are on your own.
She steals bites of my pie, and when we get home, there is a pile of presents waiting for me. Mom never disappoints.