about four years ago, we came across the idea of "Birthday Speeches". the deal is that during the birthday dinner, everyone else makes a little speech to The Birthday Person, telling her the things that we love about her, or special memories we treasure from the past year, and we all listen and then there's hugs all around. i love this tradition because it's so affirming, and it causes the family (and any unsuspecting visitors) to enter into each other's world, saying things that might otherwise be left unsaid. it's a wonderful safe place to practise saying heartfelt things, and there's always a lot of laughter, and sometimes there's even tears; and with practice, it means that we can be brave to make speeches at other important events, and not freak out if we start to cry.
i took the three lads to The Big Smoke yesterday for my lovely Mum's retirement party. i made this speech to Mum, and by the end paragraph i was choking back tears.
but it didn't matter, it was important to say the words to you. thanks for listening, Mum, and for everything you are to us X
Mum, I love it how education is so important to you.
I didn't know you when you were a little girl, or studying at university, or the first few years of your married life when you and Dad built our family home, but I remember when I was a little girl, and you were teaching part time I think. One of my earliest memories is of you propping me and Greg at the breakfast bar with plates of toast while you quickly buzzed outside and hung up the washing before racing us off to school and kindergarten.
When I was about six, and Dad started his university degree, working full time and studying in the evenings, you were so supportive. You'd come home from a day at school and negotiate two dinners - one for Greg and me, and a very late dinner for Dad and you. There were no complaints, you just calmly juggled the lot, and years later we all celebrated when Dad walked across stage and received his Master’s degree.
You were always so dedicated. There were nights of marking and report writing, and weekends of making the School Magazine, and summers of arranging and rearranging the School Timetable. Yet you always made time for family dinner parties and boating holidays and skiing trips and tramping days together. You sewed, knitted, spun wool, cooked gourmet delights, did the cryptic crossword and drank cups of tea with Gran who lived downstairs. You went on to study Economics and Accounting, and a few years later gained your University Entrance in Maori, and now you're learning Spanish!
Mum, you are a lifelong learner. You are so accomplished. That's such an inspiration to me.
As my own children have come along, you have encouraged their education too, actively supporting our homeschooling journey, helping to instil a love of language, history, the arts. Dad has helped with maths and sciences. You and Dad are still our first port of call with the tricky questions!
When D18 was twelve, he used to stay the night at your place, and you patiently gave him tastes of four languages: Latin, French, German and Maori. He has just completed his final year at school, and has taken home the Senior School cup for French, and R14 has received an Excellence grade for French during her first year at Secondary School. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and even though we now live 200 kilometres down the road, you are still an invaluable part of our village.
You move so well with the changing seasons of your life, Mum. I know that you'll continue to make the most of every opportunity during your retirement. I'm so proud to be your daughter. We all love you.