Thirty-seven years ago I lived in Millington, Tennessee. I was very young. I sat in a room in the Naval hospital on base, awaiting the results of an amniocentesis. The next morning I would give birth to my first son.
 I remember it was raining. It would storm all night, yet I was safe in this place. I busied myself by crocheting a blue baby blanket. "How do you know it will be a boy?" asked a nurse. "I don't," I replied.

What I did know was that I wanted this already-loved new baby to have a blue blanket, something soft, created for him by his mother.

I don't know where that blanket is today. It probably ended up in a dumpster, along with most of the belongings from my children's early childhood, and many of the belongings from my young life as well. Someone said he would bring the boxes north, from Cherry Point to D.C., but that someone never did.

Sometimes I want to remember every detail of the past 37 years, every moment my heart can wrap itself around, to hold those moments close to me, even the hard times and the impossible situations; the hunger and the fear as well as the absolute and utter delight I took -- and still take -- in this boy who is now a man with a brand-new child of his own to care for. A baby girl who has her own pink blanket, something soft, crocheted for her by her grandmother.
Today is this boy's day. To mark the occasion, I have gathered to me the traditions of the past 37 years as well as those of my childhood: a homemade cake, a favorite meal, something to read, something to save, something to remember, as well as clues for the simple presents that, for so many birthdays, we hid all over the house.

We used to joke that Jason's birthday was also D-Day. Now I also remember June 6 as the day my mother died, eight years ago/

Today I do as she taught me: I cut open a paper bag so it will lay flat. I place the cake pans on the bag, I trace around the outside of the pans with a pencil, and then I cut out two paper circles. I put those circles inside the cake pans, then pour the cake batter on top of them. My layers will slide out of their pans, and clean-up will be a breeze. Voila.
Today I understand (even when I rail against it) that I cannot have life without death, sweet without bitter, gain without loss, or great joy without great grief to measure it by. Today my yardstick is long and mottled and chewed and stained and cockeyed and funny and tearful and earnest and honest; it's black-and-blue, and as soft as a new baby blanket.

It's perfect. It has always been perfect.
Happy Birthday, son.


  1. This is beautiful!

    The Tender Bar has been sitting on my nightstand for months. Must get to it.

  2. Thanks, Deb, for reminding me of many important things. I love this.

  3. Sorry, Deb, fibercontent is me. I forgor that Blogger uses that name.

    Robin Smith

  4. Thanks, friends. I appreciate the kind words. Today was a good day. xoxo

  5. It's pink-and-blue, too. Our lives keep flowing into one long stream where we all meet.

    Isn't it funny that Millington is a Navy base no where near water! I was on base Sunday for the first time in 15 years. Looks the same.

  6. Hey, Maggie. Talk about that flowing stream... I was in Millington last year, doing some research for a memoir I want to write. I didn't get on base, but I did drive all around the town, and especially I went to the library, which meant so much to me as a young mother, back in 1974. Met the librarian and told her my story, and loved being back.

  7. Deb,
    As always I love your way with words and photos. We're celebrating a first teaching job for my dear daughter. You've given me many ideas to make this day special. Your gentle memories touch my heart.
    Leslie W.

  8. Lucky 37 yr old son----and thanks for the brown paper bag cake circle idea!


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