Happy Birthday, Mom.

You know what I was thinking about today, Mom?

I was thinking about the first time you ever told me that story. My favorite story.

You were a waitress from the midwest, and your friend – well, sort of friend – was going to California.

You wanted to come.

So for weeks, you saved up all your tips from customers. When the big day came, you got in the passenger seat with your friend, and together, you drove across the country. From cold Wisconsin, to sunny California.

Had this been a romantic story, things should have ended there.

But, you broke down on the way.

So instead of romance, you had to be pragmatic. You had to spend all of your money fixing that jerk’s car. By the time you rolled into California, neither of you were speaking to each other. And he dropped you off. Somewhere.

But what did you do then, Mom?

Well. You used the very last quarter in your pocket to buy a newspaper.  And, you opened up that newspaper to the Classifieds section.  And in the Classifieds, you found a family looking for a live-in babysitter, and you called that family to come pick you up.

And then, you lived in California for a whole year!

I know I know, I tell that story all the time. Does it get old?  It probably gets old by now. I brag on you constantly with that story, my brazen, free spirit mom.

When you met Daddy, down in Texas, you were dating crazy Skip. Whom incidentally, you met in California.

Skip was moody and controlling. But Daddy was funny.

He made you laugh. He liked your legs. You two would go to a Halloween party together, you dressed as a pretty man, and him dressed as an extremely ugly woman, with a dress and fake breasts and a wig. How could you not fall in love with a man like that?

So you ended up dumping Skip. And when you did, he threw all your things out onto the lawn. Then, he chased you. You ran to a gas station and called Daddy, and he came and picked you up.

A few months ago, we were talking on the phone, and I asked where you think you’ll be working in five years. And you said, “well in five years, I’ll be 64 …”

To which I responded, “WHAT? 64?”

And you said, “I know. Isn’t it bullshit?”

I laughed so hard.

You are 60 years old today, Mom. To me, you are the epitome of that cliché, “you’re as young as you feel.” But with you, it is decidedly not a cliché.

You are the woman who took that ill-fated car trip, and dated a whacko, and called Daddy from the gas station, and all of those beautiful risks tumbled you forward into a family. With a man who is still hopelessly crazy about you, and a daughter who wishes to God she had one ounce of your moxie.  (For the record, she also wouldn’t mind your cheek bones.)

You have never gotten old. And I think it has something to do with all that fearlessness.
Happy Birthday, Mom.
*Photo: Me, Mom, Jill.