Archived Opinion

Birthdays, cardinals and roller skating

Birthdays, cardinals and roller skating

My older son turned 13 on Jan. 19, and my younger son turned 10 on Jan. 20. They are both officially in the double digits, which is hard for this mama to believe. Since they were babies, we’ve hosted a dual birthday party, as opposed to separate celebrations for each boy. 

Ironically, my sister’s birthday is four days earlier than mine in the month of October, so we had similar experiences growing up. She and I always celebrated together. Most often, our birthday party was held at the old Skate-A-Round USA in Woodfin, and because it was near Halloween, all of our friends dressed in their costumes. 

We would skate, laugh and bebop to Whitney Houston or Janet Jackson until our hearts’ content and then hang out in the lounge area to eat pizza, blow out candles and open gifts. When I think of my childhood, those birthday memories at the skating rink are very special.

With my boys’ birthdays being in January, I’ve had to be creative with party venues. We’ve tried everything from trampoline parks and indoor swimming pools to gymnastics centers and bowling. But during the Covid era, it felt uncomfortable to gather indoors for long periods of time, especially when jumping and rolling all over things. 

Last year, we had a small family birthday party with a few close friends. We thought that would be the only year that we couldn’t celebrate in a grandiose way. Despite the lingering pandemic, I was determined to host a party this year that felt festive but safe. So even though it was freezing and a snowstorm was on its way, we lit up two fire pits in the yard and kept everyone outside while the kids rode bikes and scooters, played basketball, corn hole or carport Ping-Pong, and roasted marshmallows. It ended up being so enjoyable, we’re probably going to make it an annual tradition, pandemic or otherwise. 

On the morning of my older son‘s birthday, he took a photograph of a cardinal in the snow outside his window. My late mom’s favorite birds are cardinals and hummingbirds, so every time we see one, it feels like she is saying hello from afar or that she’s watching over us. Seeing that picture made my heart happy and heavy at the same time. I knew in my heart it was her. 

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Serendipitously, the next day, which was my younger son‘s birthday, we saw another cardinal in the snow outside the window and again, we knew it was my mom offering my younger son a birthday wish. She was never one to miss a birthday and always wanted to be one of the first to call the grandkids, so it’s no coincidence that we saw the cardinals early in the day.

A lot of folks get kind of down during the month of January because it’s cold and dreary and there’s not a lot to look forward to, especially after the hoopla of the holidays. But for me, it’s always been a time of celebration because both my boys were born during this month. And while it’s expensive to have Christmas and two birthdays lumped together, it’s always a lot of fun and gives the month some light.

Emotionally, it was a hard birthday because my older one is now a teenager and it feels like yesterday that he was toddling around and learning to say his first words.  Then again, it’s cool to see him grow and develop into a young man. 

I saw a quote recently that said, “Get out of your head and into your life.” Many women I know, myself included, tend to overthink and perseverate instead of simply living in the moment. One of my goals for the New Year and forever is to stop doing that. There is so much beauty in the everyday and the here and now. Whether it’s roller skating in witch costumes, sharing a birthday with a sibling, gathering around a fire pit, little boys turning into teens or cardinals in the snow, all of it is wonderful and meaningful, if only we allow ourselves to feel it. 

(Susanna Barbee is an editor, writer and digital media specialist for The Smoky Mountain News, Smoky Mountain Living and Mountain South Media. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

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