On Birthdays and Owls: Remembering My Mother

Mother with owl pin

My mother wearing one of her owl pins

Today would have been my mother’s 82nd birthday. One of my most popular posts on this blog is the one I wrote to mark her 80th birthday. By that time, she was in assisted living because of her Alzheimer’s, and she could not really celebrate her birthday that year.

Last year—her 81st birthday—was even worse. She didn’t know that it was her birthday. I sent birthday cards, but my father had to read them to her. I called, but she didn’t do well speaking on the telephone. “Hello” and “Thank you” was about all she would say.

Still, this year, I miss making the effort to mark the day as hers. And I miss my father, even knowing that today would have been hard for him if he were alive, as last Christmas was hard for him without her. He had already marked March 4 as her birthday in his Day-Timer. He and I would have talked today and reminisced about my mother.

One thing I did recently to remember my mother was to take out her owl pins. My father gave them to me last summer after she died.

She had a thing about owls.

owlI don’t remember when or why she started collecting owls. It might have been because she liked the Owl character in Winnie the Pooh (who, though the wisest being in the One Hundred Acre Wood, spelled his name WOL). But my mother always considered herself more like Eeyore than like Owl. It might have been because owls are supposed to be smart, and she knew she was smart. It might have been because an old barn owl lived in the fields behind our house.

All I know is that her collection began before I went to college, because the first needlepoint project I made my freshman year in college was an owl for her.

Mother's owl pins

My mother’s owl pins

Anyway, she had two owl pins that she wore frequently through the years. One bird is gold-plated with green shiny eyes. The other is iridescent white like mother of pearl and intricately carved. The white pin was one of the last pieces of jewelry my mother wore (other than her engagement and wedding rings).

Neither pin is of a style I am likely to wear, but I like having them, because of the memories they bring to mind.

MTH owl pin

My owl pin

At some point during my professional life, I acquired my own owl pin. I’m pretty sure I bought it, but I don’t remember why or where. I think I bought the pin about the time I was thirty. That’s about when I realized how much my personality was like my mother’s—and as a daughter struggling for independence I finally accepted our similarities as well as our differences. I am an introvert, as she was an introvert. I am smart and disciplined, as she was smart and disciplined. I love to read, as she loved to read. I am a writer, as she wanted to be a writer (and ultimately she did let herself write, as I have let myself write).

I haven’t worn my owl pin much in the last fifteen years or so. But when I take out her pins, I take out mine as well. And I remember how much I am like my mother, and how most of the time now I am glad for our similarities.

How do you resemble the generations that came before you?