I was talking to a friend the other day about how she doesn't feel especially loved or respected by her family on those 'special' days. I think I kind of got on her case, and insisted that if she wanted special attention or gifts, then she needed to do herself and her family a favor and tell them, 'Hey, my birthday is next week. I would really like a new dictionary. If you don't have time to pick one up, I'll do it myself." I actually got a little ramped up and out of the moment as I was transported back to holidays with my mother.
I only remember my dad getting my mother a gift one time. I think it was a set of china. Mother got upset (and not quietly), because he had charged it, and she would have to pay the bill when it came in, thus, in effect, buying it herself. (Apparently he hadn't gotten the memo about selling his pocket watch to buy her combs for her hair.)
Sadly, nothing would have made her happy. No matter what event was coming up, if I asked her what she would like, her answer was always, 'Just your love.' Sounds sweet, right? Yeah, I'm sure that's what she thought too. But it was difficult! And then whatever you ended up getting her wasn't quite right, but goodness knows you didn't want to risk actually just offering her a sackful of love! Once, after I was grown, we were driving by a dress shop that she liked, and in their window was a display of mannequins in raincoats with lots of umbrellas strewn about. Something caught her eye, and she requested that I go by again and park so she could look. There was one umbrella that she especially liked, and the next time I was by the store, I bought it and put it away for her birthday, thinking that I had this one in the bag. On her birthday, when she opened the package, you'd have thought I'd sold the family cow for a bunch of magic beans! I got a lecture for being a frivolous spendthrift, and told that she would never tell me of anything she liked in the future. Ouch.
Of course, to be fair, it really wasn't her fault that she wasn't at her best on holidays. She was so exhausted from roasting a turkey AND a ham, and making seventeen side dishes and six desserts, all from scratch, and baking homemade rolls and bread, that any martyr...oops...mother...would be a little cranky when the Norman Rockwell holiday was hanging just a little askew. I especially liked how she blamed it on my dad...'If I didn't have to worry about your dad being so upset when the little kids get rambunctious, I wouldn't be so on edge!'
Carey's work schedule has always been so out of sync with the rest of the world, that he, the kids, and I have more often than not celebrated any birthday, anniversary, or holiday on a day other than the actual day. Maybe that's why it just doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. Or maybe I just recall those awful days of yore, and vow, 'Never again!' I would rather sit at a table with my loved ones laughing over a plate of Spaghettios, than at a quarrelsome stress-filled feast!
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