A Birthday Tradition

By: Heather Desmond O’Neill

When I was seventeen years old, a friend of mine told me that he needed to run an errand before we called it a night. The next day was his birthday and he needed to pick up some flowers for his mother.  “You buy flowers for her on Flowersyour birthday?” I asked him. Up until then, I had always thought about myself on my birthday. It was my day, right?  I mean, I guess my mom had something to do with it, but I was the one who received the cards, gifts and well wishes. It was the one day that I could really think about putting myself first. And then I had that conversation and my view of my birthday was forever changed.

My mom is amazing. Ask anyone who knows her and they will tell you the same. She is the most giving, caring and selfless person I know. She is a multiple-job working, single mother of three, who ignited the spark in me that showed me that anything was possible.

Birthdays were always big in our house. When you awoke on the morning of your birthday, Happy Birthday signs and balloons lined the stairway and decorated the kitchen.  There was always a birthday breakfast and a birthday cake that was decorated delightfully. So the thought of celebrating someone other than myself on my birthday was new and foreign to me.

On my 18th birthday I stunned my mom by giving her a bouquet of flowers. I’ll never forget the look of surprise on her face.  I told her I wanted to celebrate with her, the fact that I  – we – had made it 18 years, and also to thank her for all of the sacrifices, tears, love, joy, and accomplishments we shared. It was probably the first time that I truly acknowledged what a remarkable person she was.

I won’t tell you for how many years, but every year since my 18th birthday, I’ve sent my mom flowers. Some years I’ve been able to see her and celebrate with her. Other years, I’ve had to send them to her. But each year, I want to celebrate the fact that no matter what challenges and obstacles we faced that year, we overcame them – together.  My mom is the rock in my life that I lean on for support much more often than I think she even realizes. The values and ideals that she has instilled in me have made me a better woman, wife and mother.

So as my birthday approaches this year, Mom, I want to publicly say, “Thank You for always being there to support me and my family – no matter what the cost.  I can only hope that my children get as much joy on their birthdays as you have given me.”

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