Today would have been my mom’s 61st birthday. The second birthday since she passed away. I debated whether to write something to commemorate this day. Not that I wouldn’t be thinking about my mom today, on the contrary, she’s been on my mind even more than usual, I just wasn’t sure what to write. I wrote a piece last year for her 60th birthday. I wasn’t sure what was left to say.
Then I ran into Best Buy to pick up an adapter. It was supposed to be a quick in and out trip, but I’m highly susceptible to their giant bins of cheap cds. You find a lot of good 60s and 70s music in there, so I stopped to look. And there, on the very top of the pile, track list side up, was a cd of hits from The Lovin’ Spoonful. Track 5 jumped out at me, my eyes lit up with recognition. “You And Me And Rain On The Roof”. That’s that song! That song mom had been trying to tell me about for years.
I have loved music from the 1960s since I was old enough to tune our radio to the local oldies station. For years, my mom was trying to get me to remember this song I had never heard. She’d sing the chorus. I’d say I didn’t recognize it. She’d shake her head with shock and disbelief and moan, “HOW can you NOT know that song?? You’d love it!”. I’d remind her, though my knowledge of 60s music generally surpassed hers, I was actually NOT ALIVE in the 60s, so if they never played it on my oldies station, or I hadn’t discovered it on my own on a cd, I didn’t know it. I’d grill her about who sang it. She, of course, had no idea. “I was 13! If it wasn’t The Beatles or The Monkees or someone cute like Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits or Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere and The Raiders, I didn’t pay attention to who was singing it!”
Over the years, as technology arrived that would have allowed us to find the song on the web, I guess we forgot, because we never bothered. I hadn’t thought about it at all until the day before her birthday, when “You And Me And Rain On The Roof” jumped out and found me.
She was right. I love the song.
Finding that lost song was a sign. I definitely wanted to write something now. But what?
I still wasn’t sure. It’s a birthday. Birthdays deserve some measure of fanfare, right?
Then, from out of nowhere, a memory popped into my head.
Occasionally when I was little, to get me to go to bed at night, my parents would bargain me into it by playing “Make Way For The Queen”. They would link and cross their arms like a throne, I would sit on their arms, they would lift me up (which seemed waaaay off the ground to me), and carry me slowly, one lap around the inside of each room of the house, while I waved the traditional queen parade wave to my non-existent onlookers as my parents repeated in a stately manner, “Make way for the Queen. Queen Shannon. Make way for the Queen.” The highlight of the ritual was when they brought me to the living room mirror, which was hung at “big people” height, and raised me up so I could see myself and wave in the mirror.
Then they’d carry me to my bedroom and, if I was lucky, cap the night off with “Throw Her To The Pigs”. If I asked nicely, “Can we pleeeeeze do ‘throw her to the pigs’, pleeeze???”, they would always cave. I’d lay down on the ground next to my bed with mom standing on one end and dad on the other. They would pick me up by my ankles and outstretched arms, swinging me towards my bed and away, counting off each time I swung toward the bed. “One…Twooooo…Threeeee….THROW HER TO THE PIGS!!!!” at which point they’d toss me onto my bed. I LOVED both of these rituals and remember them vividly.
I mean, if you were dealing with this kind of trouble all day…
Wouldn’t you want to get your daughter to this point by any means possible?
Actually, I would have probably been closer to this age during my reign as queen.
But that didn’t mean I was any less mischievous…
“Make Way For The Queen” sounds like the stuff of narcissism therapy sessions to come, but it did exactly the opposite for me. I hate the stereotype of the spoiled only child. My parents didn’t raise me that way, so when we had these everyday rituals, it didn’t make me spoiled or swell my head, it just made me feel special. Not special to the world, but special to my parents.
Do I remember the Christmas I got the Barbie McDonald’s? Absolutely. Do I remember all the great birthday cakes my mom slaved over to make my day special? Of course! The big events are big, but the little events aren’t little.
What is a thousand times more important to me is the everyday memories of my childhood.
Let’s be honest. Sometimes birthdays are great.
But sometimes birthdays end up like this.
You can work hard to make birthdays special, but when all is said and done, it’s real everyday life that you remember with a smile on your face.
And in real everyday life…
I know my mom treasured the memories of these little events too. She’s the one who took most of these pictures as we lived our everyday days. Thanks for a childhood of wonderful memories, Mom! Happy Birthday!