Wednesday, March 06, 2013

it's my party

Last week I had a simple task to complete.  To find an appropriate birthday card for my mother's 85th birthday.

Well, I thought it would be simple.  All I wanted was a card that would sum up what a great Mom she is.

What I had not reckoned with is the shroud of narcissism that has descended on my generation.  All life seems to be funneled through the giver's sense of his or her self.  Rather than focusing on the recipient of the gift.

The perfect example is the young girl who sings at church.  She is not a good singer.  But she sings with joy and is willing to raise her voice as part of our worship service.

I thank her for adding to the service.  Recently, she asked how I liked her singing.  I told her: "It is the wrong question.  The real question is whether your song assisted us in worship.  It did."

Not satisfied, she pressed: "No, I mean what did you think of me."  The bullet could not be ducked.  I told her -- unlike the other people who have lied to her all of her life -- that she was not a very good singer.  But it did not matter.

To her, it did matter, though.  All of her life she has lived in a world where everyone gets a gold star and is the center of their own personal universe.

Even knowing that did not prepare me for what I would find on the mother birthday card display.  Of the 10 cards I reviewed, 9 had the same subtext.  Thank you, Mom, for all you did for me.  I would not be the marvelous person I am without your help.

Most of the cards were love letters to the senders -- with Mom acting as a walk-on cameo in their practically perfect world reflecting their personal glory.  They sounded as if they had been written by Joe Biden.

I finally found a card that was Mom-centered.  It was shunted off to the side.  As if realizing no one would be interested in keeping a Mom at the center of a birthday celebration.

Well, my Mom is just that.  The center of our family life.  If I had not found that card, I was prepared to draft one of my own. 

I just may do that for her next 15 birthdays.

If I am around to see many more of them.

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