Chasing Down The Muse: Mother hits milestone birthday

"Woman arrives as a novice at each age of her life."

— Sebastien Chamfort


It is my mother's birthday. The rain and cold have given me the excuse to stay doing creative work inside all day. Still, I have not yet called with birthday greetings. What am I waiting for? And why?

Perhaps having just been there last week I do not feel any sense of urgency, but still. One only rarely reaches this exalted age of 95. Where is the sense of celebration? Where are the party hats and the hoopla?

Wait. Am I projecting here? My family has never been one for much celebration.

Yet I love celebrations of even the smallest of accomplishments. Participation in the celebration of events warms me. So I guess, once again, the lack of celebration, the playing down of things, leaves me feeling kind of flat.

I pick up the phone, punch in the numbers. My sister answers. She has forgotten it is my mother's birthday. See what I mean? We chat for a while, and she passes the phone to my mother.

"Happy birthday! This is a pretty special one, right?" I am determined to push this just this small amount. It is a pretty special one.

"Well, it is a nice sounding number, but I think 100 would be even better."

I can hear the pleasure in her voice. I am a little surprised, however, at her words, for she has for years questioned why she is still here on earth when she is unable to do and be who she was as a younger woman. She lacks purpose and this riles her, I know. And I understand.

Mother is amazing still. She takes no medications because she has no illness and no pain. She tires easily, does not hear well and refuses a hearing aid ("I won't be here long enough to use it," has been her lament). Her hands are arthritic, but she has no complaint about them, other than the way they look.

Her mind is still very active, and she thrives on staying up with what is going on in the world.

She has done much in her life and been important to the lives of many with whom she has come in contact. There is no resting on these laurels for her, though. Hence, the one area of discontent for her — that of not being useful.

She will say this when asked, but I noticed last week — and hear again in her response today — a growing contentment, an acceptance of where she is now.

I am grateful for this newfound contentment. It is what I would hope for — for her, for myself, for others. Though I, too, shall be a novice when I reach that stage of my own life, I strive to learn from my mother so that I may be gracious and grateful for what I may have when reaching that stage of my own pilgrimage.

Happy birthday, Mother! I celebrate you.

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer, counselor, and manager of the Sawdust Studio Art Classes in Laguna Beach. Always fascinated, inspired, and titillated by the beauty and the ever-changing mysteries of life, she can be reached at or by phone at (714) 745-9973.

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