In 2016, my birthday was a biggie, so for ten months I’d planned a Spring Break birthday getaway in Cancun to celebrate. With my mother’s failing health, she had a difficult time remembering I would be gone for my birthday, which resulted in a surprised, “Oh? You’re going to be gone on your birthday?” — EVERY time I mentioned it. This left me feeling a little self-centered: I was ditching the woman who gave me life, on the very day she gave birth to me.
As my birthday week approached I frequently prayed: “God, let my mom live through my birthday,” with a quick amendment; “– until I get home from my trip.” God answered my prayer, but my birthweek had a couple of major events: Mom’s older brother died and she learned it was time for her to receive Hospice care.
At my homecoming-birthday celebration, Mom presented me with a flamingo-clad gift bag from my sister’s fiftieth birthday celebration. We’d had such a great time celebrating my sister five years earlier, I knew why Mom had chosen the bag–squirreled it away to reuse for such an occasion–vicariously celebrating her second daughter’s fiftieth celebration at a resort. The gift inside was not as bright and flashy as the bag, however, I was not disappointed.
As I unwrapped the soft pink tissue paper Mom shared, “Lisa, I was so excited I was pregnant that I taught myself to knit and made this sweater set for you.” She laughed…”I hated knitting, and it’s the only thing I ever made…”
The next gift was wrapped in white tissue paper, “and that is the first dress your father bought for you–you know how he loves to buy outfits for babies.” I got a little misty-eyed as I rewrapped my baby outfits; even though Mom was contending for a miracle and a long future on earth, I knew this was my last birthday with her.
For a year, the bag remained untouched–outfits still wrapped in tissue, then in mid-March, I realized my birthday was a wonderful opportunity to regift the flamingo-clad bag to myself, after all, I’d just spent Spring Break in Florida. It was with little ceremony I unwrapped the outfits again from tissue paper that still seemed fresh.
I reveled in the pint-sized sweater with perfect little stitches. This time I was able to relish the intricate detail, carefully tracing the patterns that my mother had painstakingly knitted with the hope of carrying her baby to full-term and what the future might hold. The delicate white ribbons to secure the bonnet and sweater were meticulously sewn in place. I sighed, realizing my first birth day gift was also my last birthday gift…and it will continue to be gifted to me for years to come.
Though my mom never knitted with yarn again, for decades, she painstakingly knitted numerous other gifts into my life through love, encouragement and prayer…sometimes the pattern was bold, other times it was subtle…always topped with the delicate bow of a mother’s hope for her child.