The birthday celebrations that cram into the first week of June end with my mom’s birthday today. It has unfortunately fallen on my school’s graduation the past 4 years and I have not been able to celebrate with her personally. Hopefully, though she knows how much I love her and how much I wish I could be there to celebrate her birthday with her today. At least this year, in just four days, we will see each other for a mini-Florida vacation. Growing up, my mom worked tirelessly to ensure that Bryan and I were not only basically well fed and sheltered, but truly loved, challenged, and thriving. She focused on our education and helped us hone our writing, reading, and critical thinking skills. Each day after school, we would make camp at the kitchen table while she prepared dinner and we worked on our homework. There we munched on snacks, chatted about the days events, and struggled with Spanish, grammar and, of course, math. In between sautéing vegetables, she would quiz us for our upcoming assessments, help us create a variety of projects from scratch, and go over our work with us making sure we asked questions but more importantly that we could explain why we had the answers to her questions. I believe I am teacher today because she was always a present teacher in my daily life. She balanced this strength and determination though with a soft side and I can recall many times snuggling on the couch with her and talking about her own childhood memories. My mom was my partner in crime. Many afternoons we would sneak out to the mall together and shop for dresses for school dances. While we sometimes argued in the fitting room over the style of dress (I always aimed for something a little too mature and she for something a little more immature), we designed a veto system to turn these tiffs into productive discussions in which we explained why a particular outfit was unappealing to one of us. By the time, it came to buying my wedding dress, we had mastered our veto system and the experience of being just with my mom on the day we found “the dress” is a memory I will always cherish. My brother and I were so lucky to have our mother home with us each day. She modeled unconditional love, patience, support, and she always believed in the beauty of our dreams. I hope today my lovely mother has a truly lovely day.
May and June are busy birthday months in my family. No sooner have we thoroughly celebrated my brother then it is time to light the birthday candles again to celebrate dad. This year is a milestone birthday for my dad. One of those years that is both exciting and heavy. While he can at time be “bummed out” by this, it is so hard for me to comprehend that he is aging at all. My dad is frozen in my mind at a particular age and there he remains timelessly the same to me. When I try to describe my dad the word that continuously comes to mind is selfless. Throughout my life, he has always put his family first. He worked tirelessly to secure our happiness, health, and safety. I am incredibly lucky to have won the genetic pool and found myself in my family with my dad for a parent. Growing up with a commercial airline pilot for a father always elicits a familiar question, “Was he ever home?” And, to be honest, he was always home. He made sure to be home for every play, recital, game, and various event my brother and I had going on in our lives. He was a constant presence and I seriously cannot recall a single time wishing my dad was at some occasion. One of my favorite childhood memories was waiting for him to come home. In our old house, we had a long entry hallway that ended in our living room. I would wait in the living room and upon hearing the key in the door, I would race top speed down the hall right into his arms shouting “Daddy’s home!” all the way there. We would hug and embrace and I would take his hat for him and we would walk together upstairs to his room where he would put down his luggage and I would place his hat on his desk. Then it was time to sit together while he ate a late dinner and we would catch up on school, friends, and general childhood gossip. We all vied for my dad’s attention from the minute he got home. One of our favorite common topics was our pets. My dad and I are animal lovers and love having a menagerie of cuddly critters at home. One afternoon we went on our unusual visit to the animal shelter to “just look” at the puppies. Once there, we browsed through the kennels to pet and cuddled the dogs until our eyes caught on the littlest puppy of them all. We knew at once we would conspire to bring him home. The little guy was named “Lucky” because my dad liked to say he was lucky he made it home to us (as in, we were both lucky mom did not freak out on us for bringing a puppy home). Lucky was estimated to grow to be 10 pounds or so according to the shelter. But, after about two months it became clear they were very wrong. Turns out Lucky was part Doberman Pincher and part German Shepard. He was quite large at 9 months at nearly 90 pounds. My dad and I would joke that every time dad came home, the dog had doubled in size. It is crazy to think that that time was so long ago, yet because of my dad’s love, affection, care, and constant support my childhood memories don’t feel like distant shadows. Rather, they are bright and vibrant because he did so much to ensure that our family thrilled. He loves us all so deeply and we are so lucky to have such a committed father. On my wedding day, he married David and I and in that moment I could not have been happier to have the two most important men in my life standing with me at the altar. My dad is my real life hero, my constant love, and the most generous, funny, and admirable father. I just really hope he has a tremendous birthday today!