My mother once told me that I was born a little earlier than she expected, that I was born on Thanksgiving Day after she had eaten one more bite of watermelon.
At the age I recall her first telling me the story of my birth, I didn’t question why she was eating watermelon on Thanksgiving. As a child, I thought watermelons and the South went together like peanut butter and jelly.
Neither did I think to ask on what day of the week I was born. If I had, I would have discovered that the day I was born was not a Thursday at all, it was a Friday.
My friend Dan set the record straight for me one night in Decatur, Georgia, of all places—the city of my birth.
Dan and I became friends while I was working at Mojo Pizza in 2003. We were drinking whiskey together one night at the U-Joint when we found out we were birthday twins (actually, he is a year older than me but close enough).
I told him the story my mother had told me and he said to me, “Dude, you weren’t born on Thanksgiving Day. I was.”
“Huh? But, my mother said,” I replied, telling him the story all over again.
He laughed a little and I started to think that he was just messing with me.
Then, speaking directly, Dan said “I am a year older than you and my birthday was on Thanksgiving Day. You weren’t born on Thanksgiving Day. Look we can call my mom right now. I guess your mom was just confused or something.”
“Well, yea. Call her,” I said, thinking that I was calling his bluff.
He looked at me with an eyebrow raised and laughed again, saying, “Seriously, you want me to call my mom right now?”
“Well, Dan, yes. I want to get to the bottom of this,” I said.
“Ok,” he said, getting out his cell phone.
I don’t recall whether or not we actually called his mom (mostly on account of the whiskey, at that point); but, I do remember revisiting the story of my birth with my mother after that night out with Dan.
At first, she shrugged me off and told me she had no idea what I was talking about.
Then, with and indignant tone, she said she had never told me I was born on Thanksgiving Day.
My mother seemed to forget the other times the details of my birth came up in conversation—watermelon, labor, Thanksgiving, all of which were mentioned as if in one day.
The details of the stories we tell are sometimes like punctuation and in other times like incomplete thoughts.
My mother is from a country of people whose stories are punctuated in lively gestures and cadences. Sometimes, like in the case of my mother, they are like those incomplete thoughts.
For example, “I went into labor during Thanksgiving dinner.” Rather than saying, “I went into labor during Thanksgiving dinner which we had the day after.”
The stories we tell have the power to shape our memory, to weave an identity, or unravel one. I want to be a storyteller, punctuating with lively gestures and cadences, and creating complete thoughts with as much honesty as possible.
I was born on Friday, November 24, 1978 in Decatur, Georgia. I was the fourth living child of my mother (a Mexican immigrant) and my father (a Southerner of Scots-Irish descent). I didn’t know about Thanksgiving Day or watermelons or the South yet. I hadn’t heard the story of laughing in my mother’s womb. Nor the one my father shared about laughing the first week I was home from the hospital. I didn’t know about the brother I would never laugh with—the one who would have paved the way a year ahead of me.
I didn’t know that my mother’s song had turned bitter and sorrowful, neither that I was a good gift from above—a new and joyful song for my mother which she never quite heard in the right key. I didn’t know yet that mothers were able to tear down or build up.
Neither did I know about the hurts and burdens that fathers can carry in their hearts. I didn’t know that my father’s song harmonized with my mother’s song in an angry and somber tone. I didn’t know that fathers were able to runaway without ever moving.
But, I also didn’t know, in those first moments of my life, that forgiveness was a prayer on the bloody lips of an everlasting King.
Jesus hung on the cross, a bloody pulp of flesh, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34, ESV).”
I had no idea that I would become a part of a story sung in a cadence of forgiveness, gestured in a lively love. I had no idea that I would ever have reason to forgive my parents or to be forgiven in return or forgiven eternally.
There are times I go walking with the Holy Spirit, down the lanes of my memories, mapping out those defining moments that ushered in sorrow. We punctuate the story, planting trees of peace and joy and showering them with the sweet waters of everlasting forgiveness—forgiveness even for mothers and fathers who did not know what they were doing.
Today, there are times when I speak, think, or act as a child who has forgotten that this truth is rooted deep in the garden of my heart. But, I thank God for the Holy Spirit who is ever faithful to remind me, “You are forgiven much and you forgive much. You are loved much and you love much.”
I leave us with this simple petition of God our Father: May Your grace be multiplied unto us all. In Jesus name, amen.