Today is my oldest son’s birthday. I can’t believe that so many years have flown by.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see his fuzzy, rotund head, feverishly counting his miniature fingers and toes as I spy him for the first time moments after birth. He lay in a miniscule plastic cubicle next to my hospital bed, facing away, hazily recuperating from a rather traumatic birth. My husband whispers a faint, but heartfelt, introduction to our tiny infant and in response, he musters the sheer strength and determination to turn his heavy newborn head a full 180 degrees to curiously greet his father with enormous blue slate eyes. His curiosity has never waned from those first few minutes of life.
The memories keep flashing as I remember his first smile, his first words, and his first steps. I still relish in the moments when his youthful, chunky arms stretched towards me for strength and stability.
I was front and center at every Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, football game, band concert, wrestling match, and cross country meet. I thrilled at his missing teeth, his scrawling artwork pasting the refrigerator door, his sports trophies and medals, and his curly strawberry-blonde hair. I was his first dance partner and his first date.
Some of my proudest moments surround his Eagle Court of Honor and his high school graduation. I can’t help but smile as I remember helping him move into his college dorm room. Time has tick-tocked away at truly an accelerated pace.
Memories of him spill into the corners of my mind, soaked with richness and fulfillment. It has been my privilege to be his mother, feverishly supporting him year after year, backstage in the wings of his live performance on this stage we call life.
But, I am not able to be with him on his special day this year. He must celebrate without me. Nevertheless, there is some solace in the fact that I’m not entirely alone. There are many mothers like me in similar situations. I’m not the only one pining in this heavyhearted scenario.
It is my son’s 20th birthday today and he is coming upon his one-year anniversary of serving in the field as a full-time L.D.S. missionary. His goodness and curiosity is gracing another place and time at this poignant moment. This momentous occasion must come and go without me.
Twenty years ago today, we forged a special bond as mother and son. Twenty years have now passed and gone and that link has evolved into a treasured and precious connection, even though we are miles apart.
Today, I can’t reach across the distance to give him a hearty birthday hug. I can’t sing our twisted family version of “Happy Birthday” to my missionary, nor bake him his favorite dinner and dessert as I have done for the past 19 years. I can’t even speak to him.
But, it’s OK, it’s how it’s supposed to be. Mothers worldwide have spent years apart from their missionaries, funneling sincere birthday wishes across the miles in many lands and in many tongues for many years.
Nonetheless, today it’s my turn to whisper faint, heartfelt wishes of birthday happiness and health, in my own earnest fashion, and send them scurrying towards my son. I hope he takes a moment to listen.
I must admit, it’s bittersweet to be separated this year. I am a bit melancholy, but in all actuality, there is nowhere else that I would rather him spend this milestone birthday than serving a mission. It’s one of the most precious presents he will ever receive.