My mom worked hard to make sure we had great birthdays. While they were nothing compared to the over-the-top parties I see parents do for their children now, she invested a lot of time in making big signs that she hung in the kitchen and coordinating our birthday parties.
But what she couldn't control were the emotions of my dad whose unhappiness in life constantly enveloped our house and often ruined Thanksgiving because they would have an argument about something. And there were extended family get togethers on my mom's side where too much drinking too place. You know how it ends– even if you've never experienced one yourself, you've heard the stories from others. Everyone gets mad at everyone else.
When I was married the first time, my then mother-in-law, visiting from Texas, once got up and left the dinner table right smack in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, my then father-in-law running after her out the door. To this day, I don't think we know what made her mad.
So holidays haven't always been the happiest occasions for me. Until I figured out how to make them about other people.
When Greg's entire family (all nine!) decided they wanted to spend Thanksgiving in Albuquerque with us this year, I was happy to cook because it meant I could create something for others and enjoy that process. I'll admit I was tired by the time ten days ended and the last of the family returned to the east coast. However, it was an uneventful holiday– there was no drama and everyone enjoyed the company of each other. What more could you ask for?
When my birthday rolls around next week, it'll be the same. I'll go to 12:10 pm mass to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and then Greg and I will gather with a group of friends at a restaurant for dinner (tacos for all!) to celebrate not just my birthday but Guadalupe's feast day.
I don't have the expectations I used to have of my birthdays and holidays. I try to think of something fun to do, something that will make me happy while in some way giving to others.
And that makes them happy and memorable days for us all.