Happy birthday. I wanted to give you a lot of things. But the desire is bigger than the ability. Let me tell you, though, if I had a million dollars and Dr. Who powers, I'd do a lot of things for you.
If I had a million dollars, I'd buy you those things that probably most kids want to buy their parents.
I'd buy you a nice car. A really nice, absolutely brand new one, just for you. I'd buy you a matching novelty plate, something like, "4R Mema." That car would be for all those melted crayons, crumbs, smears and scratches. It would be for every time we rode our bikes down the driveway and dragged our handlebars along the side of the vehicles.
It would be for every time you selflessly loaded at least 2 babies and a bunch of toddlers into the car to take me to events, to see my now-husband or to drop me off at a sleepover. For every time you took yourself, tired and busy, to the store to buy food. For the years you stretched out of those vehicles, giving up luxury and comfort and not caring what others thought of outdated, dirty, scratched up cars filled with happy and loud children.
I'd buy you a house. A big one, on the coast, next to the beach. With solar power panels and stainless steel in the kitchen. The bathroom floor would be heated and you'd have huge skylights everywhere. I'd buy you a house for every single day you chose to live in a smaller, modest home so that you could give everything else to us.
You chose us over a big, beautiful home and you worried that we'd have an odd perspective, growing up in a small home filled with wooden toys, homeschooling, Dad's business, a dog and a cat, hamsters and snakes. You chose us over the home of your dreams and you still thought we were deprived. I hope one day you realize exactly how clearly we understood the situation to be one of self-less love. If only I could explain this with a set of shiny keys.
I'd hire someone to clean for you. No, ten people to clean for you. I'd make it so that you never had to clean ever again. I'd hire someone for every single day as a mother that you woke up to find the same set of chores waiting for you, and for every single day that you quietly and thoroughly did them. I'd hired someone for all those times you were pregnant and still devoted yourself to making sure the house was in shape.
I'd make sure someone wiped every smudge and every fingerprint and every footprint from your home to make up for all those times you tried to stay ahead of 10 toes and 10 fingers on 11 kids. It was a job big enough for a fleet of cleaners and you bravely worked against the tide for decades, always knowing your work was being undone as quickly as you were doing it yet still wanting us to have a tidy and safe environment.
I'd hire a chef to cook for you and provide you with the best food I could find. As I struggle every day with the question of agony, "What's for dinner?" I think back to those days in my childhood, where you homecooked every single meal, careful consideration given to such things as healing from vaccine injuries and eating whole foods.
You poured every ounce of your mothering care into those meals. It took a long, long time to understand the degree of sacrifice from a pregnant woman making homecooked, healthy, varied meals 3 times a day for a huge family. The smells, the effort! And you were no less busy once the baby was born but you still worked at it. You did even more with food than most. You were tasked with feeding a large family on a small budget and in a tiny kitchen and you provided food others would consider gourmet. How good you were to us, and how sad I am that I didn't realize it until much later.
On that note, I'd hire a personal trainer for you and buy you an entire gym. You did more than just encourage us to exercise and to eat healthy. You encouraged us to love ourselves, to understand the anatomical and physiological aspects and how they interconnected with our souls and minds. You made sure we had a holistic view of caring for our bodies. You taught us to question everything and to listen to the body instead of just popping a pill. I don't recall growing up as a teen, looking at my body in disgust or wanting to change myself to fit in and I know you are the reason why. I only wish I could give you back the time, energy and money you passed to your children, so that you could now take some time, energy and money to restore your body.
I wish I could give you a gift of years. It would be great to step out of a blue telephone box and bring you back. Congratulations, you're done mothering, here are all the years that you gave your children. Now erase the lines of time and the fatigue of age. Go back to the beginning and spend each one of those years doing something you set to the side, something you bypassed. Travel. See the world. Learn a couple languages. Meet new people. Go skiing. Scuba dive. Do everything you wanted to do that didn't seem as important as raising children, but was still a yearning in your heart.
Someday, if the good Doctor ever lands in my backyard or if I ever win the lottery...or maybe if I ever publish all my book ideas and they miraculously take off as bestsellers and I make a bajillion dollars...someday I will give you all the wonderful things you've given me. I will repay you for everything you've done. From sacrificing your entire self, your actual body, to the hard labor of birth and the drudgery of every day, for the education, the devotion, the gift of faith preserved in virtue and passed down with care, for the commitment you showed us every minute of every day of every year...someday I will have a gift worthy for you.
Here lies the mother with the cleanest house: