May 5, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mom

Tomorrow is my mother's birthday. She will be 65.

My mother has led an action-packed life. She grew up in Poland. She was a doctor. So was my dad. He posed as a spy so they could escape the Communists and build a better life for their kids.
It sounds like a cheesy movie script, but this is the story of my family.

My mother grew up in Poland.

I grew up in North Dakota.

My life has been very drama-free, compared to my parents' lives. That's exactly what they wanted.

When I decided to flee my homeland and move to Nevada, I didn't have to pose as a spy. I didn't have to abandon all my life's possessions. I didn't risk being thrown in jail.

I just packed up my Honda Civic and drove away.

My mother misses me.

We talk on the phone at least once a week, and she seldom says so, but I know that she misses me.

She gave up a lot for me. Her life in Poland. Her career.

Whenever I visit her, I have to be careful not to compliment her possessions. If I do, they end up in my suitcase.

She wants me to have everything.

I've taken enough from my mother. I try to give things back to her, but she makes it difficult.

If I buy her a great gift, she finds a way to give it back to me.

She stuffs cash into my purse when I'm not looking.

This was the first Christmas I didn't travel to Fargo and visit my mother.

It was too depressing.

My father died December 21, 2001, so Christmas has been a loaded holiday ever since.

Winter in Fargo can be pretty brutal.

So, I stayed in Reno. I made a Polish Christmas dinner for my friends. My mother was touched when I sent her photos of my pierogies. But I still felt like I could have done better.

Tomorrow is my mother's birthday.

She ordered me not to buy her a gift.

"Save your money. I don't want any gift from you." [said forcefully, with a thick Polish accent]

"Mom, you say that every year."

"I mean it. Moniczka, I want you to be happy. That is best gift mother can have."

She put me in a tight spot. I wanted her to be happy on her birthday. I wanted to give her the perfect gift to show how much I appreciate all she's done for me.

I thought about planning a visit to her, but I knew she'd try to talk me out of it. She would tell me to save my money. She would tell me to spend it on something that made me happy.

Even though her birthday isn't until tomorrow, she'll get the surprise tonight.

I'm writing this blog from my friend Jennie's house. I decided to stay here, so that my mom wouldn't feel stressed about cleaning her condo or setting up a guest room for me and Sam.

My brother has invited her to dinner tonight at the inexpensive Chinese buffet in Fargo that she's fallen in love with, thanks to half a lifetime in Poland without access to General Tso's chicken.

She asked me not to buy her a birthday gift.

She said, "You can tell me, 'Happy Birthday' or 'I love you,' and that is the only gift I need."

I plan to say both of those things tonight, when I surprise her at the Chinese buffet.

This year, I'm giving my mom a great birthday gift. A few unexpected days together. Hugs. Saying 'I love you' in person. And this time, it's a gift that I don't mind having returned to me.


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