It was to be my eighth birthday! The year 1981 may not have seen a more anxious and enthusiastic eight-year-old! I think I may have plotted and planned my party from the very minute I turned six! To say I was excited for January 25th to come that year, would be a huge understatement! To say my Mother would be excited would ALSO be a huge understatement...as the closer it got to the end of January in 1981, the closer it got to the due date and delivery of her eighth child! Unbeknownst to me, and my Mother, we would not have to wait until January 25th for a very special surprise and gift for us both!
The Big Eight-Year-Old Birthday was quite a rite-of-passage in the Terry household! Not only a momentous religious celebration but an unspoken crossing-of-the-threshold from child to pre-teen! I realized I would now be joining the distinguished ranks of my older siblings in the freedom of a later hour of bedtime! This gift, single-handedly, conjured up thoughts of joy at the prospects of watching the entire hour of "The Facts of Life" before retiring to bed. My clever parents made me feel as if I would soon be counted as one of the best and brightest ... and as my Mother did for everyone of her eight children on their eighth birthday, it was a celebration one would not want to miss!
I'm certain I asked my Dad, the morning of the 22nd, where our Mother was located. I can't quite remember how I first heard the news of our Mary's birth....but one thing I very clearly remember...being extremely concerned that my day would not be happening! Despite my excitement to have a new baby sister, I was truly concerned that my Eighth birthday would be overlooked. My Dad, trying his best to hold the house together, reassured me that my Mom would be home for my birthday party on the 24th and that we would still celebrate as we had all originally planned to do!
My thoughts...."RRRRRiiiiight! You're telling me that the amazing party with coordinating theme, cake and birthday presents would still be happening with my Mom in the hospital until Saturday morning...just a few hours before the party was to begin?" Visions of friends and family walking into my home with camouflaged balloons and brown bag wrapped presents all while being serenaded to an elk bugle recording entered my self-consumed mind! The reality that My Eighth Birthday may be remembered but would be "different" than I thought it would be was enough to bring me to tears. My Dad, realizing my concerns, promised me a phone call to the hospital to speak with my Mom later that evening....
"Geenie...you and I just received a special gift from Heaven! Now you have a little sister to love and to share all your life with! I promise you that this gift will be better than anything you've ever received before and you will realize, how important it was that you two girls almost share a birthday! Your little sister is beautiful and you will love her...she's better than anything we could have ordered out of the Speigel catalog! Geenie, please don't you worry ...I promise I will be home for your birthday party!" I will never forget My Mom's words or the calm assurance I felt from what she said to me that day...AND...Saturday, the day my birthday party was scheduled and the day my Mom was to bring home our special little gift from Heaven home, was an experience I'll never forget!
Having been the on-the-ball Mother she was, she had planned for my birthday AND the arrival of our darling little sister way in advance. Not only had she already taken care of most of my birthday party details she also had painted and decorated a beautiful room for Mary with a large monogrammed "M" wall hanging just above her crib. "M" for Mary (even without an ultrasound my Mom was inspired she was a girl) named after my Mom's lovely grandmother who died all too soon! Enlisting the help from my older sisters that day, my Mom's promise to me was delivered in Cecil B. DeMille style and my party was as fantastic as I had imagined it would be.
You know...I'm not sure at all what gifts I received for my birthday party. I can't remember the color of nail polish or which flavor of lip gloss I was hoping to receive, but I will NEVER forget watching my Mother, just returning from a sleepless hospital stay, walking into our home with our little Mary swaddled in as close to my Mom's body as possible. This little baby would grow up to be the sunshine of my Mother's life and the bond between Mother and baby was immediate and almost tangible!
I've reflected, this week, on the wisdom of my Mom's phone conversation with me while she was at the hospital after Mary's delivery. This first birthday week without my Mom is difficult for me! Without her presence, I realize WHY I'm so glad to share my birthday week with my sister! It brings me strength and courage to know we are experiencing our birth and our great loss TOGETHER...and truly, when I look at my sister Mary and all my other siblings...I realize that I will ALWAYS have a piece of my Mother with me because we ALL have a little piece of our Mother in us!
On that Saturday, January 24, 1981 when my Mom came home from the hospital with baby Mary in her arms, she motioned me to come over, knelt down by my side and tipped Mary up so I could get a better glimpse of her. She then asked, "would you like to hold her first, birthday girl?" Did I hold her, you may ask...Well dear readers, my Mom was definitely right...this gift was better than ANYTHING I had EVER received before!
Happy Birthday, TODAY, to our Magnificent Mary! I know Mom is SO proud of you and she would want me to say, "can you feel my arms around you?"