I have a friend named April who is my birthday idol. She, like me, grew up in circumstances where it being your birthday only meant that you EXPECTED to have fun and be showered with love, not that you WOULD. She, unlike me, became someone who designed her own birthdays to meet her expectations. I, on the other hand, tend to struggle with Great Birthday Ambivalence, not wanting to have to plan it all myself but also wanting something I want. You see the challenge?
This little struggle is one of many I hope to avoid passing on to my sons, and so I’m concentrating on thinking about their births, about their presence in my life, about their marvelous, miraculous specificity. Above all, I’m realizing that their birthdays (especially the first one) are as much about me as about them. All day, it’s: “at this time last year, we had just met you for the first time!” “At this time last year, you were having your first mama-milk!” Standing up from the table after lunch, I stretched tall and felt the usual tug of deep c-section scar tissue…and, of course, thought of how much my body has put up with for the sake of these beloved creatures. Their birthdays are, really, a celebration of capacity, of generosity, of animal instinct and tenderness. A rejoicing in who they are and what they love; an exploration of how the everyday makes room for the exceptional. Best of all is seeing the older boy tend to the younger, leading not one but TWO rousing choruses of “Happy Birthday,” and actually honoring his new status as Owner-in-Chief of some pretty interesting new toys.
These are times we want to snapshot, to cordon off, as if it would help us get our hands on this slippery, uncontainable life. But like the children themselves, they move too fast for clarity, and we’re left with a joyous blur of someone crawling at high speed toward the door.