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Labor Day weekend will be different this year. For as long as I can remember the holiday was more about celebrating my mother’s birthday than celebrating laborers. Then again she was born on September 3, which was Labor Day in her birth year of 1928. Which means her birthday was and will always be a celebration of labor, though not of laborers.

Because Mom’s birthday usually occurred during a three day weekend, it often coincided with gatherings of our extended family. Though Labor Day weekend will be different this year, that much will remain the same.  Our annual cousins’ reunion––there are 39 of us, a number that swells quickly when you throw in our spouses and descendants–– will be held the day before Mom’s birthday.

This year will be quite different in other ways. Mom left this world on June 23 and will not be with us in body on her birthday. Then again, our memories of her and of her seven siblings who waited patiently for her to join them in heaven, will be present in full force. We will tell our family stories. We will share favorite memories of our parents. They were all farmers and housewives and teachers, remarkable people though not well-known outside our circle and never, never showy.

Since some of my cousins weren’t able to attend Mom’s celebration of life, I will take the memory book the funeral home compiled for them to see. I’ll also bring the scrapbook, filled with photos of our parents and their parents, which I made the year Mom turned 80. How can that be 15 years ago? I will also take the birthday cake she loved best, homemade German chocolate cake. Not the cupcake version on the chocolate bar pictured above, but the traditional version pictured below. The cake is delicious, moist and very big. A good thing in an extended family as large as ours.

My piece will probably be on the salty side, not because I have a heavy hand with that ingredient, but because I will be crying as I eat. My tears will be good. Sad. Joyful. Healthy. I expect them to flow freely as my cousins who knew and loved Mom teach me what they already know. She, like their parents who went before her, is alive and well in our hearts.

Happy birthday, Mom, from all of us.

In loving memory of Dorothea Lorraine Stratton
September 3, 1928-June 23, 2023