This is an article that I wrote for my local newspaper. The link is usually up for a limited period of time so the text of the article is shown below. http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/courier_times_news/opinion/for-mom-the-perfect-birthday-gift/article_02ad2b57-ee78-50f5-bad1-5a0a09b42d06.html
Sunday, September 2, 2012
By PATRICIA C. GALLAGHER
Ask any Bucks County middle-aged mom about a perfect birthday gift, and I bet dollars to doughnuts she would agree with me.
Vivid pictures are forever embedded of each of my four “20–something” children: Katelyn loved lightning bugs; Kristen adored spinning dresses; Robin tagged along with me to graduate classes; and Ryan was the one who had so much “get up and go.”
My 61st birthday was just last month. Kristen lives in New York City.
“Mom, I can’t come home for your ‘real birthday,’ so I am going to take the bus to Philadelphia. I want to spend the day with you on Saturday — go shopping, get our nails done – and of course, my treat for lunch. We can do whatever you want to do. Just call me back, OK?”
I just wanted to go back to Richboro — where we raised our kids, lived for 15 years — where my kids sang along with their New Kids on the Block tapes.
Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” I didn’t want to go to Kansas. I wanted to go back to the good old days.
I snatched snapshot memories of Kristen: pretty pastel Easter dress, sleepover parties, a bunny for her birthday, selling fruity drinks at the end of the driveway, running through the sprinkler on the lawn and sitting on the curb with her friend, Caroline.
It was an unlikely birthday gift request, but it was all that I wanted. I was nostalgic for Tyler Park, sitting on the big rocks with John and the kids. The days when we lived together happy, healthy and financially secure.
“Hi, Kristen. I would like to just go back to Richboro. We can see our old house, Northampton Swim Club, bakery, where we used to go look at horses, the pedal boats at Core Creek Park, Wawa and the other hot spots.”
Kristen stayed overnight. We got an early start. We passed Saint Vincent’s Church. Kristen said, “Hey, mom, let’s go in.” We sat in the pew, lovingly close to each other. I looked into her clear blue eyes and saw both the little girl of a decade ago and the beautiful young woman she had become, about to enter graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. I thought of the smiling little girl who used to wheel and deal with the Beanie Baby craze.
We acted silly too, both standing at the podium pretending to read the Gospel. Kristen combined her sense of humor with faith.
We went to Tanner’s Market. It hadn’t changed in 12 years. But Kristen had. She no longer wanted junk food like when she was a kid. “Oh my God, mom. Look at this; you can get six ears of corn for 96 cents. Do you know how much that would be in Manhattan? I can’t believe this — corn, six bananas and two pints of chocolate milk for $4.58.”
We sat on Tanner’s bench and shucked our corn — ate it uncooked. It was perfectly tasty. We drank a pint of chocolate milk.
We went to Shop ‘n’ Bag, Richboro Bakery, Richboro Elementary, Richboro Junior High, Saint Bede’s and the thrift shop. And to our old house on 301 Holly Hill Road.
Mom, I want to get out and look at our backyard where I liked to make my stews.
Summer, 1995: She took a big pot and a wooden spoon from the kitchen cabinet, out to a grove of trees to her special fort. She mixed grass, colored strips of paper, mud, worms, bugs and water — to make a pot of muddy magic stew. And she always brought a spoonful in for me to sample.
Kristen no longer wore a red spinning dress with a bell sewn into the hem that jingled as she twirled. And no more concocting stews or watching kids’ cartoons.
Look at the sledding hill. We used to think it was so big, like Mount Everest. It is so small.
Mom, remember when I used to get away with chewing gum at choral practice?
Look, McCrory’s isn’t there anymore. I used to love the pet shop.
Remember how our bunnies were always getting loose.
You don’t have to spend any money for a mom’s birthday. Just take a simple tour of Richboro and get drenched from an avalanche of rain. Just ask any middle-aged mom from Richboro. No store-bought present could top this.
Patricia C. Gallagher, Chalfont, lived in Richboro for 16 years, and her children attended Council Rock schools. She is an author and speaker, and creator of the Team of Angels Pins (www.patriciausa.com).
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