There have been a LOT of birthdays in our family lately – and by family I mean our round of friends, too. I mean a LOT. Seems like every time I turn around, someone else is having a birthday! I know all families have different traditions, but one tradition we’ve always had was, that the birthday child was allowed to choose dinner on his or her birthday. The girls usually pick pizza, or maybe going to a Chinese restaurant…last month, Lillie decided HER choice for birthday dinner was … wait for it… a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
It was Lillie’s choice of birthday dinner that jogged a memory for me. Like another member of my family, my childhood memories are shadowed. I don’t have a lot of them. I remember some not so great stuff, but most of my life before my 20’s is …it’s almost like it’s behind a veil. But once in a while, something will trigger a memory. And her peanut butter and jelly reminded me of when I was her age – that’s five years old, for those who don’t know. When I was five, do you know what I asked for, for my birthday dinner? A full Thanksgiving dinner!
That’s pre-microwave, people! And my mother would get up at 5 in the morning to get that dinner going before heading off to work, come home from work, and finish the dinner up for me.
God bless her. I asked for that dinner EVERY YEAR until I was 12 and finally realized the amount of time and effort it took for her to do it, and changed my meal of choice to homemade fried chicken! She never said no. She never said it was too much trouble. She never rolled her eyes, sighed with exasperation, or looked pained at the amount of money it would cost…even when money was severely tight.
That request for a peanut butter sandwich discharged a flood of stuff I had forgotten: I had forgotten the effort that my mom used to make. I had forgotten that, once upon a time, she was a mom that all the other kids in the neighborhood used to be jealous of, a mom that was a cub scout den mother, a mom that planned cool sleepovers, and haunted houses for the neighborhood. A mom that made clothes for my barbies. And took me roller skating every Tuesday. A mom who stopped what she was doing one day to make cookies with me because I said I wanted to, and she had never done it before. A mom who studied up on sea shells so we could have a super cool presentation at school (my gosh, people were impressed as HELL at our stuff!) when I was in elementary school.
For so many years, I’ve always said I learned to be a good mom by doing the opposite of what my mom would do. With the memories that have been flooding back, I’m ashamed of myself for saying that. Once upon a time, my mom was a good mom. A great mom, as a matter of fact. I let years of living with her disease hide who she used to be from me.
Alcoholism is a horrible disease. People make jokes all over Facebook and such about drinking and passing out, and there are all these memes out there and ha ha ha, isn’t it funny? Well…no. No, not really. It takes a wonderful person and turns them into someone that nobody wants to be around. It makes the wonderful things that a person did in her life fade to black, when all that those around can remember is the yelling and the disparaging remarks that aim to hurt.
All this from a PB&J sandwich? Yep. Now that, my friends is truly Food for Thought.