This has been a weekend of birthday celebrations for Sam, as he turned 25 yesterday. A quarter of a century is a big event for anyone, but for our son – with all he has been carrying – I knew it would be a doubly important marker. I’d been down to see Becca in Brighton and brought her home for a visit so we could all be together to make his day special, but none of us really knew exactly what he would want to do. Now firmly settled in his own house and routine we were all aware he would be deciding what happened when and it would depend on how he felt on the day.
We have our family routines on such occasions of course – I always have to make a Smartie-covered chocolate cake, the same recipe for the past 26 years! and we all gather in the lounge for the opening of cards and presents. I am sorry to say I am always nervous – I always want them to have such a happy day and probably try too hard to make it perfect. This year was no exception, perhaps even worse than usual in some ways. We also had no present to give Sam and no idea what he really wants! Every time I asked him he brushed it off and said we would decide later… so I went off to Brighton completely unprepared.
Saturday morning dawned and I was back in Cambridge 25 years ago. That morning we took 2 year old Rebecca round to a friend’s house on our way to the maternity hospital – I still remember the room overlooking the fields all the way to the railway line, the speed of labour and the bursting into the world of our 9lb 6oz boy before anyone was really ready! I always say a birthday is as much the mother’s celebration as the child’s – after all, she did all the work!
This year it was all very relaxed though. We had some unexpected visitors – friends of Becca’s and their 2 young children and when Sam didn’t appear at our door for a while I decided to jump on my bike and go shopping for a few necessities. On return he had arrived and opened his few cards and 2 presents with the Page family present and Martin had some lovely photos of it all to share with me 🙂 Another friend had brought a CD round for him: the kindness of friends had made the potentially tense morning so much easier!
Having the little children there had made it a really happy moment and despite the lack of ‘big presents’ Sam was very content – and then they all went back to his house to see his cats!
Later on Sam and Becca returned and he had a plan: would we all like to go to see the ‘Avengers Assemble’ movie in Leicester? We could have lunch in the Handmade Burger place and go to the 3.15 performance. It’s pretty hard to find a film we all want to see and although Martin and I were due to be at a wedding reception at 6pm this had to take precedence. So off we went, the 4 of us in my car, just like old times…
It was great afternoon. Leicester was at its best in the sunshine, all the glass-fronted buildings of Highcross Shopping Centre shining and reflecting one another. We had our lunch – 4 burgers all with bacon on top! – and the bonhomie continued: it was a really blessed day and I felt the sense of grace and peace. The movie was great fun too and we all enjoyed it – even though it was Sam’s 3rd viewing and even though we had to rush home afterwards and say a quick goodbye before dashing out again – late for our wedding meal. Sam hasn’t stopped saying what a great family time he had and a really good birthday – and we didn’t even buy him anything except a meal out and 4 movie tickets… oh, and a house, I suppose! 😉
As I sat at the evening wedding reception I felt guilty for leaving him – and oh dear, I hadn’t made the cake! Old habits die hard and motherly guilt even harder. I was sad as we listened to young people of Sam’s age giving speeches, young men who had moved forward in the world in a way he has not been able to. It is hard to be surrounded by strangers and having to make small talk when carrying such a sadness inside – and I was really tired too! I didn’t make a very friendly guest, I’m sad to say: my heart was at home with my son and daughter. But we did it because we wanted to honour the journey of one of Martin’s young patients getting married to her school sweetheart after 3 years of serious illness: well done, Shaista! There are more sons and daughters lives to celebrate than just our biological ones.
Anyway, today being Sunday was an opportunity to finish off what we hadn’t fit into the actual birth day. Becca and I combined our efforts to make the vital chocolate cake and this afternoon another friend came with another CD present for the birthday boy and helped us eat it. He took a lovely photograph of a precious family moment – thank you Sal. It’s been so good this year to have others sharing Sam’s anniversary, bringing outside input and laughter into our family. We really appreciate you – and all our friends who are helping us keep going and find moments of joy along the way.
As for you, son: we all wish you many happy returns of the day!