Stupidly I’d lost a credit card and was on the phone trying to get a new one rushed to me.
The customer-service rep, whom I suspected was not currently in the same hemisphere as me, took my info, then asked in a lilting accent a secret security question: “What is your mother’s birthday?”
I hadn’t remembered ever having divulged this, and I am bad at dates in any case, but this one I knew.
It was just the two of us one year. I was about 10 and obsessed with the trombone. Dad was stuck on a business trip and my brother and sister were now both away at college.
Mom and I ate dinner in the kitchen. She brought out a little cake with a single candle and we sang a halfhearted “Happy Birthday.”
Mom, who lacked my sweet tooth, took a tiny piece, and I devoured the rest then tore back upstairs to my trombone and my scales.
A few minutes later I came back down for something when I stopped and noticed my mom, alone, standing at the sink doing our meager dishes. I’d never felt sorry for my mom before because she never felt sorry for herself.
Yet here it was her birthday and all she had was me and a sink full of dishes. I tiptoed upstairs, grabbed my trombone then marched into the kitchen playing the most awful, off-key version of “Happy Birthday” you can imagine.
Mom stood with her back to me until I was mercifully through, then turned. There were tears in her eyes, a rare sight. She walked over and with her sudsy hands hugged me as hard as she ever had or ever would.
“September 20,” I told the woman on the phone.
“Thank you,” she said from the other side of the earth. “It’s nice when a man knows his mother’s birthday.”
Yes, mothers make the world go ’round.
For more, read Celebrating Mom: 7 Inspiring Stories about Mothers.