The Crescent lunch counter

My mom died a little over 5 years ago in March. ON MY BIRTHDAY.

For a few years I felt like she did it on purpose, dying on my Birthday. “That’s what you get for being on the outs with me. Take that!” I know in my heart of hearts that this is ridiculous. As a mother myself, I know that is the last thing nearly all mothers would want to leave her child with. But, we were not at our closest when she died. She couldn’t have waited another week? REALLY?

In all seriousness, my Birthday has never felt the same. And not only because she rode off into the sunset on my Birthday. Moreso because she spoiled me on my Birthday. She always, always remembered to call. (Except for once – not that I kept track.) She bought me clothes and jewelry and a few sweet things every year until she couldn’t get out very well. She overspent on me, or perhaps just made me feel she had. It wasn’t in a guilt-producing way, but more like “This little extra thing won’t completely break the bank. Oh, and btw, don’t mention it to your dad.”

One of my favorite memories was going shopping with her. I really did not enjoy shopping. I rarely looked like I wanted to in the clothes and tried not to cry. But, we would inevitably take a break and eat at the The Crescent lunch counter in the middle of our outing. (Here it had already changed over to The Bon March.) It somehow gave me energy to complete the day of trying on ill-fitting jeans and shirts and sweaters.

The Crescent Lunch counter was a bustling little cafe crammed with bar stools that perched beside snaking counters. Sometimes my mom let me sit on the bar stool and watch the waitresses in short dresses and white aprons rush around. Her legs were short and it always cut off her circulation, but we sat there sometimes just because she knew I wanted to so badly.

The best part? I ordered whatever I wanted! Since we rarely went out to dinner, this was a huge treat. I ordered the same thing every time: a reuben sandwich with cole slaw, a coke, and pecan pie. It was so indulgent, eating my pie, watching my mom drink coffee and smoke.

Still it is no good for your mom to turn up her toes on your Birthday. So, indulge me if I am still pouting a bit about it. Our parents are a part of most of who we become, either by likeness or resistance. It is hard to accept that in a manifest destiny society. We imagine ourselves so self- made, but by and large, that is a myth of culture.

You know that. You may have made all the money to slap the cash on the table for that house down payment, but my guess is that your folks either (a) supported your education or (b) gave you the emotional and mental resources to make your life what it is. Don’t take that as a personal blow. You’re perfectly wonderful and accomplished even so. You’re doing good work with what you have been given.

It’s important to remember that some days. Life is difficult. We are who we are. We get stuck sometimes. We want to grow and be our best selves, but we have that lazy tendency. (Don’t worry, it’s not just you – we all have it.) Today, I think I need to remember that I am doing alright. And that it is OK to be imperfectly me. And to be a mix of all that made me who I am today.

If you need that too, “Take heart,” as my favorite therapist used to say. You are doing good work with what you have been given.

(for thoughts on officially becoming an imperfectionist, )

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