Finding Joy on Your Birthday: A guest post from Lisa's mom

This is my first guest post on RL4B, and it's from one of my favorite people - my mom!

My practice of relentlessly looking for beauty was inspired by my faith, a well-timed sermon, and my life experience with serious health issues. If these were the nutrients that helped cultivate and grow my practice, the seed for joy and beauty was planted by my mom. You can see this in our shared views about birthdays and in the ways we remember and tell happy stories about our past

My mom, Peggy Kelley, is best known as a writer for her poetry, especially legacy and memorial poems. Her storytelling is fun and insightful, often prompting both laughter and reflection. She lives near Bozeman, Montana (ten minutes from my house!) with her husband of 54 years. They are neighbors with their daughter, Kara, son-in-law, and three grandchildren.

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This month I reached the age of 72.  I know, I’m old.  And birthdays should not be important to me at my age other than being glad I’m still having them.  But they are special to me. 


It all started in early childhood growing up on the farm.  I guess you could say we were dirt poor, but we didn’t realize it then.  We ate wholesome food from a bountiful garden, ate meat from the pigs, beef and chickens raised,feasted on freshly gathered eggs, and drank whole milk from our dairy cows.  So we had plenty of everything except money. 

Peggy (lower right) with her mom, Nellie, and sister, Lois

Birthdays back then did not consist of parties and presents.  We did not receive any gifts to mark the occasion.  But we received something more precious.  We were made to feel special.  From the time we woke up, we were excited to know it was our special day and that we would be allowed special privileges.

  

An example of a special privilege might be something as simple as getting to choose the first piece of fried chicken at dinner.  My favorite was a drumstick but with only two of them per chicken and four kids in the family, it wasn’t always available when it was my turn to choose.  Or I might get to “lick the bowl” after Mom poured out the cake batter.  No one worried about salmonella and raw eggs at that time, so sampling cookie dough and cake batter left in the bowl were special treats. 


Very simple but very special. 


If my birthday fell on a Saturday, I might have gotten to choose to be first to take a bath in the galvanized tub that Mom filled with water heated on the stove. The bath water was the warmest and cleanest if you were the first one.


Peggy & her brother, Denny

  

At other times during the year if I asked for something my mother thought would be getting special treatment, her reply would be, “What do you think it is, your birthday?”


When I had two children of my own, I made sure there were presents on their birthdays and I tried to make sure they felt special.  I had parties for them when I’d invite their whole class to join us in their celebrations.  One year, I inserted a branch off a cottonwood tree in the Christmas tree stand and decorated it with balloons and candy. 


Another time, I created a board game on the floor for the kids to walk around on, collecting bubble gum and candy from a bowl if they landed on the correct square.  There were streamers and balloons and fun for all. 


Peggy's daughters, Lisa & Kara


Did they feel special? I’m sure they did.  Did they feel more special than I did on my birthdays that were minus presents and parties?  I don’t think so.


This sense of feeling special has followed me to my adulthood.  Oh yes, there are gifts now and even an occasional party that I’ve enjoyed, but the joy of feeling special still rests with how I felt when I was a child. And now having my family near me adds to my joy. 


For that I am truly blessed.


Peggy on her 72nd birthday with her daughter, Lisa



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