Monday, March 24, 2014

Birthdays and the Passing of Time

Do you remember anything from being four years old? I vaguely remember my fourth birthday party. It’s one of my earliest memories. My party was held at an ice cream parlor in town. The theme was Beauty and the Beast. My amazingly artistic dad drew a poster board castle so the preschool-aged attendees could play “Pin the Beast on the Castle”. We had that poster board for years. I also remember that two of my best friends at the time argued over who got to sit next to me...luckily, I have two sides.


This past weekend, I celebrated my birthday with my husband in a new city I’ve come to love. We marked the day with bacon grease buttered popcorn and Wes Anderson, rather than ice cream and Disney. It was a perfect day.

Lunch in Harvard Square. I forgot my camera, so Aaron took a few with his phone!
Popcorn at JM Curley's. We'll definitely be going back! 
In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I thought about growing older (okay, I’m not that old!) and how so many people don’t want to tell you how old they are. I’ve always thought it was so fun to know people’s ages, and perhaps it’s a leftover from my childhood, but I have a hard time accepting the social constraints that don’t allow you to ask a person’s age. I believe we should celebrate how old we are, and I intend to continue believing that. Because at four years old, a circumstance occurred that was far more important than table seating arrangements. My beautiful mother, at 32 years old, was diagnosed with breast cancer. With a 4 year old and a 2 year old, she underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, not to mention exhaustion, nausea, and caring for the needs of two small children who could not really comprehend what was going on. 32 years old is way too young to have breast cancer, and the doctors treated it aggressively. On top of that, during that crazy year, I turned five and my courageous mother started homeschooling me.

I don’t remember much of her treatment and surgeries. About all I remember is a lady from our church coming over and bringing my sister and I stuffed animals. My mom has been a survivor for twenty years now, and I am so proud of her. My life would be radically different if she was not here. She has given hope to many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and shares her experience to help others going through similar experiences.

My mom learned something from her brush with death. She learned to appreciate every passing day of life. Most women her age wouldn’t own up to being in their early fifties. My mom states it proudly. You can ask her how old she is, and she will tell you, and she will be proud of it, rather than cringing away from the fact that she gets older every year, because all these years that she has had with us are years that were almost stolen from her. She celebrates every year she has.

Earlier this month, as I was reflecting on how fast my twenties are flying by, and struggling to imagine being 30, or 40, or 50, I realized that I should learn from my mom. Each birthday is a time of joy for her, rather than a time of dread. That’s the way I want to live my life.

Mom, you’ve taught me so much, and continue to teach me. I love you.

Me, my mom, and my sister.

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