Yesterday was my birthday.
Honestly, I didn’t really care.
Forty-six. Pretty unremarkable.
It’s the first year without my mom.
And my dad is dead.
And the world closed.
Certain days I can feel it coming. I will long for them. The normal, present-day, inevitably painful. It just is.
My mother used to send me a birthday check. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was constant. Always seemed wildly generous. Written from a joint checking account, but a singular gift.
Happy Birthday, Meg!” Written in the memo section in her tiny perfect cursive. She wasn’t really an exclamation kind of mom. “Give yourself something you would never otherwise get, from me,” she would say.
My father once sent an oversized birthday card. Do they even sell those anymore? I had to give a slip at the post office window, wondering who’d sent a gift, only to be handed a giant envelope. he’d paid ridiculous postage.
I hung it like a poster. Or did I throw it away? I thought it was sweet they each sent their own card but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe they fought. Couldn’t agree. Stormed off in the card section of CVS.
There is no one left to ask.
Birthday calls were made each year, but we didn’t always get a chance to talk.
Last year, I’d meant to call her back. She left a wish hanging like a forgotten coat in my voicemail.
I rediscovered it in the methodical, and meticulous searching for her after. Photo albums, emails, texts, voicemails.
“Hi Meg, I’m sorry I missed you. Just wanted to make sure I called you on your big day. Happy birthday, darling.”
She always called me darling. No irony. Being someone’s darling is a terrible thing to lose.
The belated gift turned out to be finding her voice hiding amongst automated messages from my kids’ schools.
Oh course I wish I had called her back. I can’t remember why I didn’t.
I still don’t always remember there is no one to call.
My new birthday check.
I spent an hour after my mother died touching her things. Placing my hand, the way you check a hot burner on her scarves, her tiny teeshirts, and her rings.
I have no idea why I did it, but I’d do it again.
Bereft. I pocketed her perfume.
Does anyone need to be told it’s the smell you miss?
On my forty-sixth birthday without my mom, I wore her perfume.
The sense of her.
A gift I would never normally get.