Birthday Mama



On Children
Lyrics by Khalil Gibran, Music by Ysaye M. Barnwell
Your children are not your children

They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself

They come through you but they are not from you and though they are with you

They belong not to you

You can give them your love but not your thoughts

They have their own thoughts

You can house their bodies but not their souls

For their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow

Which you cannot visit not even in your dreams

You can strive to be like them

But you cannot make them just like you

Strive to be like them

But you cannot make them just like you
Music by Ysaye M. Barnwell, © 1980 Barnwell's Notes Publishing; recorded by Sweet Honey In The Rock® on "Selections." <> <> Used by permission of the composer.

It seems obvious that you call your mother on her birthday. If your mother is no longer on the planet, or if she is conventionally unreachable (coma, working or vacationing in seriously remote location, whereabouts unknown, you're "dead to her"), thoughts in her direction could soothe–or clear–a heavy soul. 

 I'm not at all sure that my son, Asa, knows my birthday. Asa is 23, a first year law student. I know Asa loves me every day. I didn't want him to have to realize with a start two or three (or ten) days after my birthday this year that he'd missed it, and feel some pang of guilt or personal disappointment. So I texted him on Sunday and we talked that night (he'd been reading for 7 hours, with 7 ahead of him). Good conversation. Before we hung up, he wished me a happy birthday. (Asa cooks, usually from scratch. Please post recipes suitable for an academically inundated student. I'll make sure he gets them. Thank you.)

My mother is giving herself a big 80th birthday brunch this year at a country club.  Pierre is creating the cake. I cannot say enough about Pierre's cakes. Totally worth throwing a party just to get some of that Pierre, avec fondant. (You do see this. I am not throwing this party. My mother is infinitely superior at event planning, and we all know it.) My mother called me first thing (I was born at 6:15am and she likes to reinforce the memory), then fell silent the rest of the day. With my mother, no news is bad news. No news is not what we want. She called late the next day to say she'd been "a basket case" the whole day because she found some unwelcome something in her left breast. (She gets a mammo on Tuesday. Please send light. Thank you.)

My daughter, Rae, called me (maybe twice) on my birthday. She is a first year Ph.D. student. Rae loves me every day. If she ever misses my birthday, it will be due to her being in some remarkable circumstance (tracking lions, for example), and she probably will have arranged to get a card to me, regardless. (Rae rides her pink Schwinn on Manhattan streets. Tell your vehicle driving New York friends to share the road. Thank you.)

Happy birthday. Make faces in the mirror. Take a load off (everybody, Fannie, your fabulous self).
[*Listen to Sweet Honey in the Rock sing "On Children" here. Then sing it with them, with me. --T]