Because it’s My Birthday: Horseshoe Lake (revisited)

I planned to skip today.

I mean, celebrating my birthday with the one who gave me birth being gone now two days shy of only two months just seemed–well, too hard.

I even stripped my birthdate off my Facebook profile so it could pass quietly.

I tried to share my feelings with one family member–perhaps not very well–who shared with another–perhaps not very well–who texted me that I was being selfish.

Grief is selfish?

That person went on to explain–perhaps not very well, but I got the drift–that celebrating my birthday was the same as celebrating my mother.

I added my birthdate back to my profile.

And my wall has been flooded all day with birthday wishes.

These friends reflect Jesus, and I am overwhelmed.

I was above the river in October, wrapped in a little poet circle led by Julia Kasdorf.

She’d asked us each to bring a poem, our own, to read aloud.

To offer it up for discussion and reflection.


I took this one, written last summer.

And today I’m reposting it–edited and retitled.

Horseshoe Lake

I am from black-and-white two channels,

antenna perched on a post turned

to fuzzy and not-so-fuzzy

by hand in all weather with

window open.

From always Ford, Appian Way pizza, Campbell’s soup, Evening in Paris,

and Avon lipstick samples in the mail.

From Soupy Sales, Ed Sullivan, Sky King,

Kenny Roberts the Jumping Cowboy,

and Tigers baseball.

I am from the little house,

three rooms for five,

kitchen cupboards chartreuse

and gray formica table,

hemmed by woods

and buttoned with a propane tank.

Four log cabins heated with kerosene

for company and customers,

hunters and National Guard,

and a single-seater outhouse

inhabited by snakes.

I am from the birch tree and the Juneberry,

the blueberry bog, wild strawberries, spore-spotted fern forts,

morels, and green pads with yellow bobbers


I am from one-at-a-time tinsel on the tree,

playing cards, Paul Bunyan tales, rowboats and bluegills

and Thunder Bay pike.

I am from James the shanty boy and Edwin the dulcimer player,

from William the gardener and fresh-picked rhubarb dipped in sugar.

I am from Grandma Dummer and books of the month,

crochet hooks and limburger cheese,

with old-fashioned candies, hard and cream-filled.

From paper and pencils and pages,

manual typewriters and carbon.

I am from clean-your-plate-or-no-dessert

and do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do.

I am from the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments,

letters to Aunt Emma (Sister Mary Lucinda),

Baptist friends,

a box of scripture verses,

and Sunday funnies.

I am from unleavened pancakes, ambrosia, broiled chicken,

and tiny morsels of liver swimming in catsup

swallowed whole,

soft-boiled eggs and sour cream on everything.

I am from the scent of pipe tobacco and sawdust, coffee and cigarettes,

railroad ties and forest fragrances,

and strains of Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.

I am from the Horizontal Queen of Horseshoe Lake

with the fishhook in her lip,

a bartender with his name on a bullet,

and a wrestling-loving grandmother.

I am from albums black and white and wedding check stubs,

crocheted dresses and a gold-gilded pitcher,

an Alpine costume that no longer fits and a plastic-flowered crown.

I am from wood and earth and water,

feathers and fur and scales

and deep white snow.

When I see where I’m from,

I see where I go.

Window open.

Happy Birthday to me. Thanks, Mom!



  1. Sara says

    Your mom must be looking down from her vantage point in heaven and smiling!
    Happy Birthday, Sandy!

  2. says

    I loved this poem then, and I love the revision now.

    Last year, my 40th went quietly by because it was just too soon (too soon being nine months later!). My 41st is Sunday, and I finally feel ready to celebrate. John and I are going away for a whole week, in search of snow and relational healing.
    Megan Willome recently posted..Navigating by St. Mary’s

    • Sandra says

      I thought I was a little crazy to feel that way. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone. Praying for a sweet time for you two. xoxo

  3. says

    Yep. I think this was an excellent way to honor your mom this year. Have fun being the birthday queen! It gives all the rest of us something to smile about.
    Nancy recently posted..The Carnival

  4. says

    Those were precious moments Sandy, and this is even more beautiful now. More birthday wishes sweet girl and prayers for the comfort of His loving presence.
    Linda recently posted..Choices

    • Sandra says

      Oh, they so were, Linda. Not sure we can duplicate the joy of firsts, but looking forward to more precious moments!

  5. says

    It is so hard to celebrate those many milestones and thresholds you’ll cross once our parent is gone. My mom will have been gone for ten years this coming summer. I honestly have forgotten much of the pain I felt in those early days but your sweet words have reminded me. You’re in my prayers, Sandy.

    • Sandra says

      Ah, Beth. There’s the pain and the missing and then the reminder of our own mortality, right? We need to hug all the moments we have. Thanks for your prayers. Hugs.

  6. says

    Ah yes… this was the most beautiful way to first meet you Sandy! What a beautiful way to remember you making me smile with that “one at a time tinsel on the tree,” and so many other similarities. You are a doll! =)

    Your grieving is your own… no one else owns it, controls it, defines or understands it. Sometimes someone else can lighten it… and what a blessing that is. Let him walk you through it (yea, though I walk ‘through’ the valley of the shadow of death…) On this journey… give yourself plenty of grace and space.
    Patricia recently posted..Boundary Lines

    • Sandra says

      Thank you, friend. I’m so grateful for all my online/IRL friends who hold me on this journey. Who understand things even some in my own family don’t. Love you.

  7. says

    I’m sorry to hear about your Mom’s passing. One thing I learned at GriefShare when Beloved died: The first time we go some place or do something we did with them will hurt…A LOT.

    Mourning is intensely personal, and everyone works through it at their own pace. You might want to look up GriefShare and see if they have a group in your area.

    Happy Birthday, Sandy. The sun will shine again.
    Susan J. Reinhardt recently posted..Author Interview – Patti Lacy – Part 2 – AND GIVEAWAY

    • Sandra says

      Thank you, Susan! We do have hospice folks available at the ring-a-ding of the phone, and they do send literature. But I will look into GriefShare. Thanks!

  8. says

    Happy Birthday Sandy and thanks for sharing a bit of your story in poem form. So sorry about the loss of your beloved mom… praying that God will comfort you and that you will have the space to grieve as you need…if it is okay, I am sending you a hug.
    Dolly @ soulstops recently posted..When a friend sees you

    • Sandra says

      Thank you so much, Dolly. And yes, sending a hug is more than okay. I’m receiving it with open arms.

  9. says

    Oh, I am so glad you decided to celebrate – just a little. And I am so glad your were born. So I thank your mother, too. I hope and pray that today has been rich and meaningful, not just sad, Sandy. But the sadness is part of the journey, you know? Of course, you mourn her loss on this day. And every day.

    LOVE the poem – missed it the first time through, I think. And despite the many differences of geography and family history, we share some interesting similarities, too. Tinsel on the tree, for one; rabbit ear TV for another. We are pretty much the same generation, I think. :>)

    Happy, happy birthday, Sandy.
    diana recently posted..A SLO Day: Spiritual Direction

    • Sandra says

      Thank you, thank you. You always seem to know just the right things to say–and so beautifully, too. I love that we are similar. Of course, you’re a lot taller. :)

  10. says

    This is so fitting for your birthday—-a real blessing to your readers. Thank you for sharing all that shaped you—is shaping you. The first time I read it, I couldn’t comment. I really still can’t explain why this touches me so—but it does. Thank you and Happy Belated Birthday.
    Dea recently posted..Life in the Valley

  11. says

    A wonderful poem! It not only says what has shaped who you are, but all that contributes to what you will continue to become. (That’s awkwardly expressed but I’m sure you get my meaning.) Even the grief has purpose, Sandy.

  12. says

    I’m glad you were born. And reborn.

    You are an incredibly beautiful human being. And this? This is absolutely stunning. It might be my new favorite SHK post. But I’ve said that many times before, too. You are always outdoing yourself.

    Happy birthday. And happy celebration of your mother. xxoo

    • Sandra says

      I wish we lived closer, my friend. I’d be in every one of your classes. I would.

      Love you, girl.