It was crazy windy here yesterday. March made like a Lion, and roared up a storm. Our utility company reported more outages than any other time in history, and says it will take up to a week to restore power for everyone. Trees are down all over, schools and businesses are closed.
It was a mess. But all the while, the sun shone beautifully and there was nary a cloud in the sky.
On the night I was born, 61 years ago today, it was crazy windy as well. My mother loved to tell that story, of the wind whistling around the windows on the top floor of the hospital. Of the way the large window by her bed rattled and shook until she was afraid it would crash into a million pieces. “There was thunder and lighting and rain pouring down all night,” she said. “I was a nervous wreck!” By morning, though, the wind had calmed, the sun was shining, and I had come into the world, red-faced, screaming, and with a headful of dark, wavy curls.
We all have our personal mythologies, and that story is part of mine - the way mother nature ushered me into the world with bluff and bluster. You might think it fitting if I had lived my life in the same manner, but all of you who know me know there could be nothing further from the truth. There’s nothing windy or blustery about me - I think I'm more like the quiet calm and clear blue sky that follows the rain.
The retelling of my birth story is just one of the things I’ll miss today, on this first birthday of my life without my mother in the world with me. My mom was a great maker of birthdays - all the time I was growing up, my birthday was an Event with a capital E. At least two parties were held each year, one for school friends, the others for family and cousins, with at least two kinds of cake at each one. I can still picture my mother and grandmother, bustling around in our basement kitchen/family room, hanging streamers, blowing up balloons, setting the table with coordinating paper plates and napkins. Dishing up homemade sloppy joes for lunch, lighting the candles on a fresh and fragrant chocolate cake. I was the center of attention, and I admit, I loved it and ate it all up.
A lot has changed since those happy birthday years of my childhood. The landscape of my life looks very different this birthday, and it’s always a little dicey when the view out the window changes drastically. Yesterday in that horrible wind storm, my friend down the street lost a stand of three large and beautiful pine trees that stood in her backyard. She was despondent, and I can’t blame her. They offered privacy, were home to flocks of birds, and stood sentinel over the entire corner. Those trees were the first things she saw each morning when she opened her window blinds. This morning, and every morning from now on, her view will be entirely different. She will have to adjust to this new empty spot in her line of vision, and it will take some time.
I’ve had almost a year to adjust to my new landscape, the one without my mother in it. Her death was like a windstorm that blew through my life, felling so many of the safe harbors I’d counted on for 60 years and leaving a huge barren space in the view from my heart’s window.
“Piece by piece, I reenter the world,” I read this morning, a quote from Toby Talbot, in her memoir A Book About My Mother. “A new phase, a new body, a new voice. Birds console me by flying, trees by growing, dogs by the warm patch they leave on the sofa. It’s like a slow recovery from sickness, this recovery of one’s self."
Slowly but surely, I’ve been recovering too. Consolation comes in books, in music, in birds and trees. It comes from friends who stay close at hand and lift my heart. It comes from that “warm patch on the sofa” my dogs leave behind, a husband who takes care of me, a son and daughter-in-law who love me. It comes from the bright, beautiful smile on my grandson’s face.
My view out the window of life looks a lot different. I’m more determined to enjoy the landscape of life on my own terms, more cognizant of what I need to be happy, and more sure-footed about where my next steps should take me.
On the night I was born the wind conjured a magical family for me, one that rooted me in love and understanding, one that nurtured me and gave me strength to withstand the storms of life. Those roots go deep and solid, and there’s no wind blustery enough to blow them over.
What greater gift could I ask for on this birthday?