“What would you like for your birthday breakfast?” Thoughtful pause. “I’d like breakfast in bed!” This birthday has been anticipated, dreamed about, and planned (by the birthday girl) for many months, but in the end it was special just because it was special. Her siblings prepared her breakfast in bed (“Don’t worry Daddy, it’s just cereal”), and cleaned up the spills; she received phone calls from grandmothers, and started the morning by opening her “parcel” from Grandma Alice (“That’s a hard word to say!”); then fell into the inevitable restless boredom that arises as one waits for party-time; though she perked up briefly during the cake-making and decorating (the “bear cake” has become a family tradition, for the younger birthdays); finally, we put on a movie (Return of the Jedi!) and banished the children to the basement so we could do some proper party prep; and at last (okay, at 5 o’clock), our guests arrived (we were twenty, in all, and it rained, so the party was necessarily indoors); more gifts, swirling in pink capes and princess dresses and everyone trying out the magic tricks; supper (beans and rice, with sides); playtime (nine children, with every age represented from eight down to one), and a game organized for the kids by Kevin; then cake! Kevin and I agreed that we hardly even saw our birthday girl during her party, and that this was a sign she’d enjoyed herself heartily. This was one exhausted and rumpled little ballerina being tucked into bed at a rather late hour last night, holding up four fingers to show just how old she’d become today.
(“Do you feel different?” She checks herself up and down, feels her head, frowns uncertainly. “I guess you still feel just like yourself, huh.”).
It’s her birthday, and I intend to upload photos from tonight’s much-anticipated party. Till then, here a few from the last couple of years, including one taken today: with birthday cake batter upon cheeks. Fooey was born when our family was transitioning between old-fashioned film and digital, and her babyhood was therefore cheated of in-depth recording. Plus, she was so incredibly cute that no photograph could truly capture her charms: the bald head, the toothless grin, the joyous spirit. She surprised us by arriving fifteen days early; we hadn’t even picked out her first name. She remains a commanding presence in our lives, chatty, vivid, opinionated, creative in her clothing choices, always colourful. She’s spent the last few days announcing, with great seriousness, to anyone who would listen: “It’s almost my birthday.” Yes, it is. Here we are. Happy birthday, youngest daughter. You are loved, loved, loved.
It started with a jolly walk home from school and ended with hammock battles, not on the agenda, and in between we painted a mural on the fence beside the play area, and chalked up the bricks, and devoured pizza, ate cake and jello and cool whip (yikes!) while swinging on swings and sitting in the play structure, and the boy turned eight. He really did. He’s a lovely boy and it’s so easy to be proud of him. He is warm-hearted, a true big brother, open to experiences, enthusiastic, who delights to eat just about anything, earnest, with the ability to focus deeply, sometimes bursting with energy, noisy, the noisiest child on the block sometimes, and yet, able to find calmness, too. He works hard, plays hard, sleeps soundly. I didn’t get any fabulous photos of him at the party, but here is one from this morning, just woken up eight-years-old, and about to open his first gift (from sister Fooey). It’s not a great photo either, but he looks like the boy I know so well.