May 6, 2010

I Got a Dr. Pepper For My Birthday. . . And It Probably Changed My Life

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Todd is one of a few bloggers I read who I actually knew in "real life" before I ever read anything they'd written. I worked with Todd at my favorite job at Borders Books, actually he was my boss, and I think he is pretty fabulous.

He currently lives in San Francisco and blogs at Iced Tea and Sarcasm. I love reading his points of view and seeing the items he shares because they're often things I wouldn't have found otherwise. If Todd still lived in Washington, I would want to hang out with him and have him be Sam and Danny's honorary gay uncle, because that position in their lives is very sadly left unfilled.

He obviously has it in for me, or he would not have written a post about birthdays and loving your Mom just as I'm emotional, hormonal, and about to have a baby.

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I Got a Dr. Pepper For My Birthday. . . And It Probably Changed My Life

It was a dark and stormy birthday. Haven't you always wanted to start a piece of writing with "It was a dark and stormy. . . "? Actually, it was stormy, but it wasn't dark. It was white. And cold. Snow was general all over Missouri.

The winter of 1977-78 was one of the worst on record for Missouri. It was the coldest ever (average temperature of 24.3 degrees) and it had the most snow in a season (54.9 inches). I remember the snow falling and falling and the drifts growing and growing. Snow days were a common occurrence. Even if school had been in session, the bus wouldn't have been able to reach us. The blizzard had caught us all by surprise. And, as I eventually discovered, my mom was completely unprepared.

I turned eight that winter (which makes me 29 now in case you need help with the math, ahem). As you can imagine, January birthdays are rarely very easy--although my most recent birthday was in Kona, and I highly recommend Hawai'i in January. Nevertheless, I was used to having a snowy and icy celebration. That year, however, was different. We were stranded.

As a kid, I didn't really notice. It was a vacation for me: no school, plenty of television and food, Xmas gifts to play with, and the anticipation of an upcoming birthday. For my mom, though, the blizzard was a nightmare. She has never really cared for the snow, and this was SNOW! To top it off, the roads had been closed for so long that she had been unable to make it to the city to buy my birthday gift. I'm sure, in her mind, she felt like she had failed.

It's nearly impossible now to remember what I would have wanted for my eighth birthday: something made of NERF or some new Hot Wheels cars or a remote-controlled something or other. A boy can dream, can't he? In fact, as I look back at my last ten 29th birthdays, I can barely remember any specific gifts or where I spent those birthdays or with whom or what kind of cake I had. Birthdays just tend to blend all together.

But, my eighth birthday still stands out. Despite the blizzard and the snowed-in roads, my mom was determined to make it a full-fledged celebration. She talked my brother into letting her give me his electronic blackjack game. Then she found a Dr. Pepper that she had stashed away and wrapped it up for me. Yes, we were really snowed in: we were out of soda! Finally, she had an angel food cake mix and whipped that together.

I'm sure I knew the pickings were slim, but I don't remember it that way. I loved the game. I thought it was new. I thought it was mine. The Dr. Pepper was great, too. Mom confessed to me later that she had found the Dr. Pepper, but that just made it all the more valuable to me. The game, however, began to nag at me. I had seen my brother's game. I eventually recognized its keys and display (and wear and tear) in my game--my brother's game. So, I asked, and my mom answered. She told me the whole story. The game wasn't really mine after all.

It didn't matter. We would share. The birthday wasn't ruined and I could still play blackjack. And that Dr. Pepper sure tasted good. Today, though, it matters. I've forgotten many, many birthdays; but, this birthday that my mother struggled to make normal despite the hardship, this birthday that could have been an absolute disaster had we all taken it too seriously, I remember it clearly. My family treats it as a touchstone for birthdays: All we need is one another.

The best gift I received that year was this knowledge--and the story, of course. We tell and re-tell it every year. It defines us more than any present we can buy. So, while I hope you get to have that birthday in Kona some day, I also wish you a more challenging, more exciting birthday: a birthday to remember and measure all the others against. And, I want to thank my mom for everything: the memories, the love, and that Dr. Pepper. I love you, Mom.

2 comments :

Dumblond said...

What a great story!

Mrs4444 said...

This is sweet. The best gifts are free and come from the heart.

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