When your children are young and you are rushing around in a birthday panic, blowing up balloons, baking and decorating a celebration cake, trying to trim the ever-growing party guest list, sellotaping your fingers together
as you wrap up strangely shaped parcels - it never occurs to you that one day you might not be with them on their birthdays.
Yet it happens. Those children grow
up, form their own families and households, often at some distance. They have jobs which take up the daily hours and children of their own whose birthdays must be planned for. If you are lucky - and if the country doesn’t happen to be in Lockdown - then
you might be able to help them celebrate on the nearest weekend to the Actual Day. This year, it’s inevitable that a birthday celebration for one of your All Grown Up offspring will be a socially distanced affair.
What doesn’t change, of course, is that however old your child may be, you spend the day of their birth thinking of the moment they came into the world and changed your life forever. That is
true of the first baby you hold in your arms - but just as true of the second, the third, the fourth...
Today is the birthday of the Middle of the Darling Daughters.
I haven’t seen her in person, or baked her a cake. Our birthday present had to be delivered direct to her house though the Son in Law (“Rules is Rules”) made sure that it was appropriately wrapped up (of which more later.) We did, however,
get to sing Happy Birthday to her over the phone and to listen to her account of a rather splendid day so far.
Ah, yes, the birthday presents. The Birthday Girl’s
Fella knew only too well that the Rascally Trio would expect to open their mother’s presents. The problem was that he had wrapped up his own present, and the one from us - but somehow he needed to magic up another gift-wrapped offering. It was unfortunate
that it was Lilia (youngest of the Twins by one important minute) who grabbed the extra present to open - only to reveal a bag of peanuts, the only thing her father had been able to find in his haste. She was not amused - but fortunately her mother, the grateful
recipient of such birthday largesse, saw the funny side.
I can imagine the happy scene - just as I can visualise the Birthday Girl sitting with her
sister in the afternoon sunshine drinking coffee before they need to collect the Trio from school. I just wish I could be there...
I was, however, very much around
when she was born. She was three weeks overdue and signalled her imminent arrival shortly after her father had left for a Sunday lunchtime “appointment” with some good mates and a cribbage board at a local hostelry. My father had to make a quick
trip to the pub to fetch him home. Mr B still likes to remind his second born daughter that he had to leave when he was on the point of winning the game, giving up a prize pot of half a crown (a princely 12 and a half pence in today’s money.) She was,
it goes without saying, worth much, much more.
Mr B had, incidentally, invested shortly before her birth in a Scalextric kit, setting out the track all around
our bedroom where it wouldn’t be disturbed by our first-born. Before he could sit by my side, holding my hand and making encouraging noises to help me in my labour, he had to pick up all the track and pack it away before the midwife arrived. It could
only happen to us...
When my children were little, they liked to hear the stories about the day they were born. I still tell them to myself, year after year, remembering
the funny, the fearful, the unforgettable.
Birthday stories are not only for the children, they are for mothers too...