I slept in yesterday and was woken up by my dog who had to pee terribly. That was a first – her having to go before me. When I walked out into the living room, I stopped short and took it all in – the clean floors, free of dog toys, shoes and general messiness; the sofa and chairs with their pillows arranged so beautifully that the furniture actually looked like it did when we bought it. I took a few more steps and saw my kitchen free of dishes, sticky counters and other odds and ends that send my anal retentive tendencies into overdrive. On the kitchen counter was the pot of gold – a pile of birthday presents wrapped in a variety of brightly colored paper. Among them were striped papers, solid papers and a cellophane wrapped fruit basket – all smiling up at me with rainbow colored cards and bows.
I tilted my head up above the pile and looked at the banner. We do banners in our house. We always have. My mom and dad started this tradition when I was a kid and it stuck. We do banners for every occasion – birthdays, graduations, new jobs, welcome homes, just because we love you. There are only three rules with our banners: they have to be made on paper towels; they have to be drawn on in marker; and they have to have the birthday year or special occasion date clearly defined in each corner. This year mine was 47. That’s a big number – 47. There have been several years in the recent past that I’ve looked at that number scrawled in marker on the corner of my banner and caught my breath at the enormity of it.
But not this year. Nope.
I took one more look at the banner, the pile of loot and gave my tidy surroundings a once over. Then I danced.
“I’m 47! I’m 47! My house is clean! They love me!”
This song is a just little something that came to me in the moment. But it encapsulated everything that I was feeling. It took my adult gratitude, little girl giddiness and everything in between and wrapped them all up into a neat little birthday ditty.
You see, I felt giddy. The presents, the festive wrapping paper and shiny bows touched the little girl inside me. The banner with my husband’s and children’s names on it touched the mom and wife in me. The clean kitchen touched the woman in me who often feels underappreciated and overwhelmed. The pictures on the banner – the book (coming soon), the keyboard, the big boat of a car that I’m back in after letting our son buy my much newer, much smaller car, hearts and kisses; those all touched the Jen in me, the Jen that sometimes forgets that she is living mostly on purpose, that she is sometimes generous and that she is always loved – even when she doesn’t feel lovable.
But what made me dance the most, what got deep into my soul and seeped down to the tips of my toes and made them jump up and down – that was the fact that at midnight last night, while laying in bed watching the second airing of Rachel Maddow, I heard my family bustling around tidying, cleaning and straightening. I heard the sounds of delegating, vacuuming, laughing and genuine love for each other and me.
Let me pause here to say that this wasn’t something that they just did because they thought it would make me happy. They did it because they knew it would. I ask for the same thing every mother’s day and birthday. I want to wake up to fresh coffee and a clean, tidy house with no dishes or crap laying around. I have to be very specific on this, but that’s okay. We get what we ask for, right? So before I went to bed I made sure that my hubby and children knew what I meant by clean. And as I layed there with Rachel, I heard them making my birthday wish come true.
I got some great stuff for my birthday. I got a new television for my office so I can stay on top of Olivia Benson’s latest cases while I work. I got a new yoga mat that I hope to break in before the dogs do. I got pajama pants, a Seminole’s t-shirt and a beautiful necklace that my hubby had engraved with two wedding rings and a cross. I got lots of other wonderful gifts, like spending the day with my family paddle boarding (cross that off the bucket list), having a delicious lunch at Santo’s and getting tons of b-day wishes from friends, family and FB peeps. Thank you all!
Each and every one of those were great gifts and I am grateful for all of them them. But the best gift, the one that wasn’t found in a store or wrapped with a bow – the best gift was the one my family gave me through their actions. By working together and cleaning they told me I was worth the effort of doing something they don’t want to do. By going out and buying new wrapping paper just for me they let me know that I’m worth going the extra mile for. By taking the time to color the banner, come up with silly pictures and sign their names – even Zack’s who is away at college, they told me they love who I am and what I do.
It isn’t about what’s in the colored paper or how few moments the house will look showroom clean. It isn’t about how big the number on the banner is or what pictures accompany it. And it isn’t about the great lunch and money spent paddle boarding. This year it was all about feeling valued, appreciated and loved. My family put time and effort into making my birthday perfect., from start to finish. And to know that they did that for ME was the best present of all.
So guys, I expect the same next year. Until then, I hope that I can make you feel as valued and loved as you made me feel on my special day!
47 Year Old Jen
P.S. And after seeing those pictures… OMG! Clean eating starts tomorrow! Pray for me! 🙂