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On Freedom & Motherhood (Happy Birthday, Mom.)

{A third daughter with her third daughter. Mom - you were the first to point this out.}

A mother who is really a mother is never free. Honore de Balzac

Mom. I sit here listening to Leontyne Price which of course reminds me of Christmas. And home. I sit here trying to think of things to say to you on your birthday, but there are too many. It's funny because I wandered into a card shop today - Papyrus, you know it - and they had several racks of beautiful birthday cards. I pulled so many out, and read them, but put them back. Because none of them was right. None of them did this justice, this note from daughter to mom. Finally, because time was ticking, I picked one. It is silly. It is gold and glittery. It contains an Austen quote about parties, but please consider this your real card.

Mom. This is hard. This motherhood thing. I am almost five years into this role, this exquisite and impossible role, and I am amazed at how tricky it can be. My girls are good girls. They are delightful and quirky and humorous and kind and healthy and, the list goes on. But this? This raising of them, this worrying about them, this wanting for them, is ceaseless and tough. Here's the thing though: I would never trade it. Never in a million years. Truth be told? The last five years of my life, my years as a mom, these wrinkle-causing years? They've been the best, and, yes, most difficult of my life.

There you have it. Best and most difficult.

Freedom. I once had it, I guess. Maybe. More or less. But now? Ha. I am tethered, I am tied, I am tried. I am a mother. And so now? I get it. I get what you did for us. I get that you put your self aside in a way. I get that you shifted your focus, your dreams, your needs, so they landed on Dad and the five of us. I get it. I finally get it. And I appreciate it. I more than appreciate it.

Here we are. On your birthday. A day that is about you. Not us, but you. And we will surround you. Our kids will surround you. It will be utter chaos. Of the best and most maddening breed. There will be wine and whimsy. There will be laughter and stories. There will, I imagine, be a pinch of sadness, too. (How can there not be?)

I want to tell you a little story. I'm not sure I've told you this before. Four years ago, when you were at work, C and I insisted Dad go to the emergency room because he was mid-treatment and having chest pains. He was being his usual stubborn and macho self and insisted he was probably okay. But we were scared and we wanted him to get checked out. So C and I arrived at home and whisked him away in a yellow cab to the hospital. On the way, he was talking about you and your birthday. How he'd gone to the card shop to get things; wrapping paper and cards. He also mentioned the cake he'd ordered. He was thinking about you, Mom. Even when he was frightened (I know he was), even when his body was failing, he was thinking about you.

I hope this doesn't make you sad, but instead makes you smile. A complicated smile, yes, but a smile. Life is riddled with uncertainty and pain, but it is also laced with happiness and celebration, family and love. That's what today is about, will be about. Mostly though, it will be about you.

On this day, on behalf of the Donnelley girls, I thank you. I know now that it wasn't easy, that it isn't easy. This motherhood stuff is a brilliantly messy stuff. It is good though. No, it is great.

Thank you, Mom. I love you to pieces. Tiny ones.

The Five Year Plan

A Rotten Day of Writing