Sometimes the best birthday gifts of all are to ourselves

This year, I decided, the birthday present I most wanted was to not get in my annual argument with Mama. So, I gave it to myself.

And I enjoyed it the best of any gift I've ever received.

See, every year, my mother - this is going to surprise you - forgets my birthday. I know. I know. I don't believe it either.

But it makes me mad and we wind up fussing because, mainly, she is completely unrepentant that she doesn't remember her baby's birthday.

She does, however, recall in great detail the night I was born, beginning with Daddy telling her they would go to the hospital as soon as "Gunsmoke" went off and ending with all the pain and suffering she endured for my six-pound, 19-inch long entrance into this vale of grief and sorrow.

"Then I should think you would never forget the precise date of all that torture," I'll retort. Mama just shrugs. No words of rebuke faze her at all.

Last year was the worst. The florist called Mama, trying to track me down to say they had a delivery for me.

"We knowed you had a new house but we didn't know if you had moved yet or if you were traveling," the florist explained when she brought me the flowers. "So I called your Mama."

Only in a small town would this happen.

"Is today Ronda's birthday?" the florist asked.

"I don't know," Mama replied. "Is it?"

The delivery lady thought that was hilarious but I didn't see one thing funny about it. So, I charged across the floor to the phone, called Mama and promptly got into a fuss.

But I discovered something interesting before my birthday arrived this year. Mama forgets my siblings' birthdays, too. I never knew that before, so self-absorbed as I am.

I called my brother late on his birthday. He said, "You're the only one who's called."

I called my sister on hers. She said that only my brother and I had remembered.

Now, my other sister, Louise, doesn't have this problem. She shrewdly has outmaneuvered the system. She sends Mama flowers on her birthday. It's a brilliant reminder. A bit tricky, but brilliant nonetheless.

"Why do you send Mama flowers on your birthday?" I asked, before I figured out what was really going on.

"Because she carried me for nine months and delivered me," she responded, trying to make it sound noble and unselfish.

When Louise's birthday came around a couple of months before mine this time, Mama called me and asked, "Did you know that today's Louise's birthday?"

"Yes. I've already called her."

"Well, you know, I didn't realize it was her birthday until I got the flowers she always sends me on her birthday."

Finally, the light came on.

It should be noted, though, that we all know better than to forget Mama's birthday.

I'll admit that for the past few years I've set Mama up in the way that wives set up their husbands by making certain that they aren't reminded of anniversaries. By doing this, you can be completely indignant, insulted and throw a beauty of a conniption fit if the date is forgotten.

This year, I opted against that.

"Mama, my birthday's this week."

"I know."

No, she didn't, but I couldn't prove that so we couldn't fight about it.

The next day: "Karen and I are going to dinner tonight to celebrate my birthday."

"Is your birthday on Saturday?"


Saturday arrived and I called Mama. "Today's my birthday. Call me back and wish me happy birthday."


So she called me back, as though it was all her idea, and said, "Happy Birthday!"

When the florist called again, Mama said, "I know why you're calling. It's Ronda's birthday!"

No fussing at all. What a wonderful present.

Happy Birthday to me.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)" and "The Town That Came A-Courtin'."