A Birthday Column

Today is my mom’s birthday. Because I’m poor and since various teachers told me from a young age that homemade presents are the best, I wrote a column for today’s Mercury as my present to my mom. Here it is:

Today is my mom’s birthday. That’s right; her birthday is the day before Valentine’s Day. I can almost hear the collective sigh of sympathy from the male readers, but, to tell you the truth, it’s not that bad. Well, it’s not that bad for me. My dad might have a different opinion.

When a family member has a birthday the day before a popular, commercialized holiday, it’s kind of hard to forget. Although if you do forget, it’s twice as bad, and there aren’t enough fragrant flowers and chalky candy hearts in the world to make up for that kind of absentmindedness.

But my dad, my brother and I always remember. Occasionally, it seemed like my dad did some last minute planning, though. When I was in high school he came to me (a few times) around Feb. 11, with a crisp bill in hand and said, “Here you go, get your mom a Valentine’s Day card and a birthday card.” As I left to fulfill Cupid’s duties, I was reminded not to forget the candy.

But this column isn’t about my brother, my dad or me; it’s really about my mom and, to be clear, that last anecdote was out of the norm. Actually, on Christmas and other holidays, the men of the house always aim to find my mom the ideal gift(s), whether it’s flannel pajamas (I guess a comforter just doesn’t do the trick), the perfect Santa figurine for her collection (collection is an understatement; it’s more of an army) or a GPS unit for her car (she wasn’t blessed with our collective sense of direction).

On Christmas, this singular, gift-giving mindset always results in my mom opening presents long after everyone else is done shredding brightly colored paper and ribbon. My mom says it’s “embarrassing” but, frankly, she deserves it for putting up with us. I know there are times when it seems like the only differences between the dog and we are words and shoes.

This year, I think I’ve found the perfect gift; this year, Mom, my present to you is this column. As for a Valentine’s Day gift, well, it looks like you’re on your own Dad.

If I can back up a minute, I would like to address something lest readers think my family is composed of materialistic yuppies. I suppose my dad, my brother and I jump at the chance to show our appreciation through bows and thoughtful gifts because we’re not a very “touchy-feely” kind of family. However, now that I have the opportunity to write a column, I can express my appreciation via a medium in which I’m much more comfortable.

The truth is my mom has given me more than I could possibly begin to repay, but hopefully this is a start. She passed gifts on to me that have no price tag. Don’t get me wrong, my dad taught me some valuable stuff such as the importance of a sense of humor and how to throw a spiral.

But my mom, by example, taught me how to be compassionate and open-minded. She taught me how to stand tough in the face of adversity and not to lie down after being wronged (or seeing a friend or family member wronged). These traits have served me well in my in profession, and I owe my success and any future success to her.

In fact, she’s probably the reason I am a writer. From a young age, she read to me and encouraged me to read as much as possible. As a kid, sometimes begging and pleading was necessary to secure a new action figure. No petitioning was ever necessary to get a new book, even if it was “The Calvin and Hobbes’ Lazy Sunday Book.” It was my early interest in reading that sparked my interest in writing. Who knows if I would even be writing this column had that interest not been sparked?

In addition to giving me the tools essential for being an independent, productive member of society, my mom is also my biggest supporter. She was positive about virtually all of my endeavors, especially if they involved the arts. When I wanted to go to college out of state to study journalism, she didn’t balk. She was just happy I was doing something that made me happy, and that kind of support is priceless.

I’m forever grateful for all the reasons I’ve just listed. I know I don’t say this enough, but I love you Mom.

Thank you, for everything.

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