05.18.13 Today is the birthday of my first-born grandchild, son of my first-born daughter. The lilacs were blooming the week he was born and I remember the fluffy branch I broke off from an errant bush, bringing it into his little nursery where soft morning light filtered through the lace curtains, creating patterns on the blue wicker rocker chair. I loved rocking him in that chair, which has now been returned to our living room, and we think fondly about all the babies fed and held in that chair these past 12 years.
Lilac season always makes me think of birthdays, and of my Mom, and when I was 12 years old. I was so lonely in school that year. We’d crisscrossed the country from Ohio to Los Angeles to Denver as my Dad changed jobs, all in the course of that last true year before the end of childhood. I would run home for lunch every day to escape eating alone in the cafeteria, and on my May 8th birthday, I escaped for home to hurriedly eat with Mom. Awaiting me on the kitchen table was a tall angel food birthday cake, layered with rows of ice cream, and Mom had decorated the entire top with lilac blossoms she’d meticulously created, one-by-one. After the grilled cheese sandwich and potato chips with onion dip, she sang Happy Birthday to me and said I didn’t need to wait until the family dinner to have my first piece. It’s still the best birthday I’ve ever had.
The last time I saw my Mom she was lying frail and barely able to speak in her hospital bed. As I left her, needing to catch a flight to my new home in Montana, I took both her hands, kissed her on the forehead, and told her I needed to leave now, and that I loved her. She opened her eyes and tears rolled down her cheeks and her forehead was furrowed with such suffering as she cried. She squeezed my hands and told me, “you were my first-born, my first-born baby” and then she went back to sleep. As evening turned to darkness on that lonely flight “home”, I realized she was telling me good-bye.
How I hold these memories in the lilacs of May, their sweet smell reminding me of birthdays and Moms and babies.