Everything was great until my mother turned 60.
We are a family known for great parties, and we had one planned for her 60th.
But around noon on her 60th birthday we decided to cancel the celebration. It would just seem in such bad taste to celebrate.
Her birthday had become tainted.
It was September 11, 2001.
When I was supposed to be baking a rather lavish, creative and slightly complicated cake, I was sitting in front of the television watching CNN interview women who had been widows for a few hours, watching images so horrific that I couldn't quite comprehend them. The day those planes crashed and thousands of lives ended, life would be joined at the hip by this historic event.
We had a small celebration a few days later. It made me sad that someone as loving and giving as my mother, a woman whose birth should be celebrated, especially by me, was now overshadowed by evil.
My mother was 18 when she had me. In 1960 that was not something people could quite comprehend either, an unwed mother. So my grandparents sent her off to the United Kingdom to stay in a home until she had me, sparing her the shame and ridicule that would have occurred in her home town. Those were different times back then. You couldn't even say the word "pregnant" on television. T.V. couples had to be shown sleeping in separate beds. The idea of a music video involved Gene Kelly with tap shoes on singing in the rain.
There had been some suggestions about abortion, and adoption.
At 18, and a "young" 18 from what I have been told, she stood up for me and would not let anyone take me away, before birth or afterwards. As a result I was adopted by my grandparents, another courageous act by my mother, done out of love and at the sacrifice of her feelings. She did what was best for me, not for her. I had a great childhood, and although she went on to have three other children, as a mother myself I know it had to hurt her to see me interact with my mother, HER mother, call HER mom, while I was told my "real" mother was my older sister. I don't care how old you are, or whether you have had other children who see you as their mother, that had to hurt.
When my mum passed away, my mother stepped in and gave me the opportunity to still have a mum, so far I have had that blessing into my early 50's. She has been a grandmother to my children and to me she has been my best friend, someone I cannot imagine living without. She has been my shelter in what has seemed to be a never ending storm in the last 15 years of my life. I cannot imagine going a day without talking to her.
She has not had an easy life. She has had more than her share of dark times, pain, heartache, and situations that most people would find hopeless. She never gave up. She never lost her ability to laugh. She never lost her affinity for kindness and generosity.
Today is her 72nd birthday.
I was watching some of the anniversary coverage and speeches, remembrances, videos made of "where are they now", widows, children who were born after the event and never met their fathers, the dogs of 9/11, and stories that emerged from the ashes of the Pentagon, World Trade Centre and Flight 93 that literally dissolved into the ground in a field far away from its intended target. Because of heroes. Like my mother.
And it was then that it occurred to me, that in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy we witnessed incredible amounts of hope, love, and courage.
In almost every way this is a story of a miracle struggling to shine through the darkness. For many it was not a day that changed their life for the worse. Instead, things got better. The way people lived their lives, priorities changed, we appreciated each other more, people found love again, people forgave each other, estranged families were reunited, heroes were identified, and resilience seemed to be the theme that emerged from what was intended to break the spirit of innocent people.
For too long, my mother's birthday has been overshadowed by the terrorist attack. It just seemed inappropriate to be festive while the rest of the free world observes a somber anniversary.
But while we should not overlook what happened we need to remember that good was born on this day too.
My mother is one of those good things.
She also symbolizes through living her life, heroic choices, extraordinary courage, resilience hope, faith, and love.
I think she was meant to be born on September 11th, albeit 60 years before this unspeakable act, because it is totally o.k to celebrate what emerged from that day.
My mother is the personification of all that comes from hardship, sadness, pain, and darkness.
She is the light of my life. She is the reason I am here. She is the reason I want to keep being here. I wish I was as resilient as she has been in her life. I will never reach the gold standard she has set in her 72 years here, but I hope she has many more birthdays so I can keep on trying.
Happy Birthday to my mother. You are my 9/11/41 hero.