Birthdays

Tomorrow would have been my Mom’s 74th birthday. As it stands right now, I’ll be renting a car tomorrow morning and then Dylan, the dogs and I will make the drive north to Marum to put flowers at her and Oma’s niche. It is going to be really hard tomorrow. Hell, it is already hard now and has been for the past couple of days as I knew this was coming. There are mornings that I still wake up and have to remind myself that it is real.

Mom was pretty frustrated by the fact that her birthday was the 4th of January. She felt it was a lousy time to celebrate since everyone was wiped out after Christmas and New Year’s. So, when she moved to Seattle in 1997, she decided to have a new birthday – one that fell on a date that she found much more suitable because it was already full of fireworks and why shouldn’t they be a gift? Yes, she chose the 4th of July instead of the 4th of January. It was also the day she arrived in Seattle to live there. So, every 4th of January, we would go out to dinner but it wasn’t a “birthday”dinner – that would come in July. Mom loved Cactus and that’s most often where we would go. Even though it wasn’t her “birthday” dinner, she would get dressed up in her very glamourous faux fur and put on the German finely tailored pants and the bright lipstick. And one and a half margaritas (preferably made with Hornitos) and she was practically dancing around the restaurant.

I remember for her “not birthday”in 2012, I gave her an envelope full of printouts and maps. Her birthday gift that year was a trip to the Yukon Territories in Canada, in February, to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. She didn’t really believe it until we boarded the flight on Air North out of Vancouver to Whitehorse. I remember the joy on her face during that trip and how bossy she was when I was driving the dog sled. And in the sled dog yard, I think she said hello to all 200 plus dogs. I remember her falling in the snow and timing the trips to the composting toilets at the right time so as to avoid any other guests. I remember being in the hot springs with her, freezing above the water and toasty warm below. Most of all I remember her sense of curiousity about the world and people around her.

And I very much don’t want to believe that someone with such a spark is gone.

Tonight Dylan and I went for Indonesian food because the Mexican food here is somewhat of a miss. Dylan ate two bowls of sambal (and regretted it afterwards). Indonesian food reminds us both of Mom. Tomorrow night, our cousin, Sjoerd, is playing gypsy music in a bar with one of his bands. My mom was a huge fan of gypsy music (and especially the Gipsy Kings) so to have that happen on her birthday is too strong to ignore.

Since Christmas, which everyone survived and went home with leftovers, things have been a bit of a struggle. I am trying to stay functional and keep going but I am having alot of days where I would easily stay under the covers and not come out if that was an option. However, the pets keep me going since not one of them is really tall enough to open doors and take care of the others. Although we know from first hand experience that George can get the pet food cupboard open and feed himself as the empty bag attested to.

Oude and Nieuwe Jaar was quiet,in terms of we spent it here. It was not quiet in terms of the massive fireworks that went off everywhere at midnight. The dogs went a little nuts. Here’s a thrifty Dutch tip – you don’t need to buy fireworks (although you can for the 4 days leading up to Oude Nieuwe) because everyone for blocks already has. All you have to do is stand outside your front door and take in the show. And we’re not talking little sparklers – these are Fireworks.

Dylan and I have had some interesting conversations and experiences while he has been here. We went to the Maritime Museum, which was super fascinating. Today he stopped at a cafe and ordered a coffee and drank it there. This is a big step for “Mr. Venti Drip” and I wasn’t even around to influence that since I went back to work yesterday. Before he arrived, I was asked to visualize what I thought a successful visit would look like. How would I measure the success? I was torn between two things. One measure was Dylan falling in a canal. The other measure was that when I took him to Schiphol to leave, I would miss him once he was through security instead of doing a victory dance. Where things stand today, it is definitely not the canal measurement – which is a surprisingly good and attainable thing. I hope that would make my mom happy to know. Of course, the visit isn’t over yet 😉

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