Today is my daughter’s birthday. It is her golden birthday. Each year as I think of her turning a year older there is a part of me that wants to celebrate that it is my anniversary of being a mother. As I have told my eldest nephew Jordan many times, I think of my wedding anniversary as not only the day I became a wife but also as the day I became an aunt. Betsy’s birthday however marks another anniversary, one that had it not occurred the other two events of today would not have happened. Today is the twenty-sixth anniversary of the day that Jeff and I met. We met in the back of a church at a wedding rehearsal. He was wearing a pair of jeans, an Oxford and a tweed sport coat. His hair was cut in a flat-top that you could set a level on. I caught the bouquet at the reception the following evening and we were married that April.
Becoming a mother was an exciting adventure and Betsy was about as ideal as a first child could be. Born alert and curious the night nurse wheeled her in to my room in the middle of the night (about five hours after she was born) to be with me because “she is the only one awake in the nursery and I think she just wants to be held.” She has remained alert and curious for the following twenty-two years and just like when she was a baby she needs to have used up all of her energy and then can sleep for a long time to recharge.
Birthday parties were a big event when she was little. I think because my own July birthday prevented parties with friends I may have overcompensated a bit. Her first birthday was a party with friends and extended family at my childhood home. We had a keg and cupcakes. It was a root beer keg, she was one. She hardly had any hair but had been walking for three months and greeted her guests in her tiny jeans and red T-shirt which stated “I’m this many” and had a drawing of a child’s hand with the index finger raised. She ate cupcakes and drank root beer and was a champ at opening gifts with some assistance. I had begun working with University of Minnesota students just three months earlier and we were living on-site down near campus, one of her gifts was a Gopher cheerleader’s uniform. As the party wound down we changed her into the maroon and gold outfit and she snuggled into her father’s lap where she fell asleep. It would have been the perfect end to the party had she not lifted her head and thrown-up all over Jeff. Apparently this happens sometimes when you have a keg at a birthday party.
When she turned three she wanted to go to the zoo with her cousin Katy. It was a perfect fall day and we have many sweet pictures of the girls exploring together. Her fifth birthday we were in our house in St. Paul and had a large party with cousins and friend’s children and new neighborhood kids. We had a magician! Yet another party was a Pokemon themed affair hosted at the local bowling alley. Never a fan of cake I would make a giant cookie and decorate it with something related to the party. For a number of years Betsy simply wanted to have her girl cousins spend the night.
Once we moved to Bloomington the girl cousin event was a trip to MOA and some rides at Camp Snoopy after a meal at the Rainforest Cafe. When we returned home we acted as though the garage door had failed and when it opened the headlights shown on a new red bike, which she took to college with her this fall.
In addition to a giant cookie, the “dice game” became a regular expectation of her birthday parties. Lots of tiny wrapped presents in the center of the group and a container being passed from girl to girl. Upon rolling a doubles they could select an item from the center. Eventually when they were all chosen the gifts were opened and that is when the game became furiously competitive, as the game resumed and when a person got doubles they could “steal” items from their opponents. I believe we played it until her fifteenth birthday.
There were a couple of smaller affairs thrown into the mix, Ren-fest trips with an individual friend and then during her sophomore or junior year a Renaissance Festival trip with a half-dozen costumed friends. Her final high school party was set to take place at a bowling alley but had to be canceled when she got strep throat and was never rescheduled as the activities of a senior year meant everyone was busy at different times. My very favorite of all of her childhood parties would have to be the year we did Camp Pribyl! The girls received camp shirts upon arrival and after the flag lowering ceremony they made their dinners over the fire. They received flashlights that opened into lanterns to use when crossing the street for a soak in the neighbor’s hot-tub. Upon returning there were “Pudgy Pies” to cook in pie irons in the embers of the fire pit and then there was the outdoor movie on the sheet hung on the side of the garage. There was an enormous tent with several rooms where the girls stayed and in the morning the flag was raised and breakfast sandwiches were made in the pie irons before group pictures were taken and parents picked their kids up. It was an exhausting event to host but so worth the fun of seeing the girls enjoy each other that much. That birthday was half her lifetime ago.
The years fly by and her nineteenth birthday was the first one that we were not with her for, we arrived the next day for Parent’s Weekend and surprised her with nineteen gifts all wrapped in our hotel room. It was like the dice game but she got to keep them all. The following year a friend and I drove up to take her and her roommate to lunch between classes and give her the camera she would take to her study-abroad the following semester. Last year she turned twenty-one and we mailed her gifts to her. Today she turns twenty-two, it’s a Monday, she’ll have class…and her father and I will go up next weekend, take her presents, see the fall colors and our beautiful daughter.