On the Eve of My 41st Birthday

This will be my first birthday without my mom.
Mom and me :)

41 years ago she cleaned the house. I imagine her folding the laundry, picking up after her three and five-year-old, putting away dishes. She thinks maybe all that activity helped things along, made her water break.

A neighbor came over to watch my siblings while Dad drove Mom to the hospital. April is still cold in Bend and that's what Mom remembers about the drive: that her feet were cold and Dad refused to run a red light.

It wasn't the easy birth the third baby is supposed to be. There was back labor and my shoulders were too wide for the birth canal. But I arrived all the same, on a cold April morning.

Mom was with me for forty birthdays after that. I remember my little kid birthday parties: at the pool or a parade around the yard. And Mom always baked a homemade cake. I used to be embarrassed by these cakes. I thought she was being cheap and often wished for a store-bought cake with thick, white frosting. But now I wish for one of those cakes, or for the cherry crunch my sister and I often requested.

As an adult, on my birthday, Mom always called. She always sent a card in the mail, and sometimes a little gift, something she saw that made her think of me. But this year, and I'm sure for every birthday to come, I will remember Mom. I will remember all of the wonderful ways she taught me to celebrate. I will remember all of the ways she made me feel special. And that will forever be my gift from her.