Tag Archives: birthdays

A note to my boy, who is six today

Dear Declan,

You are six today. Six!

That’s halfway to twelve.

That’s one-third of the way to 18.

You’ve grown so much this year. Taller. Wiser. Kinder.  More confident, and though I didn’t think it was possible, more curious. Aggressively curious, even. And infectiously thrilled by every new thing that you learn.

You wander around the house, wondering aloud, asking questions I don’t know the answers to, like “Why is Qatar so small?” Or quasi-rhetorical ones, like “3.5 billion years isn’t a very long time for life to take to evolve, is it mom?” (Props to Carl Sagan.)  You quiz me to find out if I know which continents use the most electricity, or sit up with a start, just moments after waking, and tell me “I just got what plasma actually is.”

On Mother’s Day, you explained how the Himalayas were formed to three separate audiences, how they are folded and getting taller every year. No wonder I got so excited when I found a DNA stencil at the craft store yesterday.

We’ve traded in bedtime storybooks for brief tomes about Silicon, Chlorine, Fluorine & Iodine, and Sulfur. Then you always manage to extract sciencey, psychedelic stories from my imagination in which you are the star (sometimes of the plasma variety) before you fall asleep.  Thankfully, you return to storybooks now and then when I grow weary of molecules. When there are pictures or short chapters, you do most of the bedtime reading.

All that, and I can still say silly things like “hey, my son turned into a pink punch balloon” at the dining room table, watch you peek over said balloon and say to me in earnest, “no mom, I’m right here.”

Earlier in the school year, you started asking me six times four, three times seven, nine times ten from the back seat of the car, using your fingers like the Montessori chains.  “I’m not sure if it’s safe for mommy to do math and drive,” I told you.  You kept testing my multiplication skills anyway.

A few weeks ago, you sat down at the dining room table with me and asked “what is 122 times 365?” I thought you were just seeing what I could do in my head, but you had a greater purpose. I leaned on my phone calculator for an answer. You repeated the number I read — 44, 530 — and looked thoughtful for a moment before you declared: “that’s how many days the oldest person who ever lived was alive.”

I am always a little stunned, although I shouldn’t be at this point, at the things you understand – like the kind of math you have to do in order to find that number. And then I’m a little sad, because I also understand why the length of a life might be of such interest to you. You watched your Grandfafa fade away last summer, and bravely read a book at his funeral.  The last year has taken us to a plethora of hospitals and funeral homes. You know I spend every Saturday morning with someone else who will be passing soon. You dive-bomb me with hugs and kisses the moment you sense any sadness.

Sometimes, I am overcome with worry around 4 a.m., feeling this is all much too much for you – deaths, illnesses, separated parents – all this while you’re figuring out how to keep your feet clean in the muddy world of playground politics. But we’re good about talking right now, you and me. We share and work through things.  We feel sad when we need to. We rebound. It feels like most of what we do when we are together is laugh.

I try to remember to stop and breathe you in the way I did when you were a baby, to breathe in these fleeting moments when I can still carry you, still snuggle you so that you can feel little and safe.

The real reason I imagine that you want to know how many days are possible in a lifetime is because you are busy calculating how to make each one count. And you do. You really do. More than anyone I have ever met.

Declan, I love you so spectacularly much that my heart can hardly stand it.

Happy sixth birthday.

I love you infinity,


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Growing up, I remember the phone ringing at the butt crack of dawn on every one of my birthdays. Once, as a teenager, I grouched a little at my mother as she came in and nudged me out of sleep to answer it.

“You won’t have this forever,” she warned me, whispering. “You will miss it someday.”

Early this morning I woke up, squeezed my eyes shut and listened for the sound on that phone line – the sound of my grandparents, their voices chipper and full of the rural Ohio upbringing that makes every R sound like a sharp turn while the Gs in ings go awol and yous come out as yas. They always wanted to be the first to wish all of their children and grandchildren Happy Birthday. And mom was right. I miss that. I do.

Today my mom sang to me while Declan held my face and waited to tell me, intently, that on Ni Hao Kai-Lan, the children sometimes travel inside of floaty bubbles. My brother called and sister-in-law called sang while their son punctuated each line with an aggressive “CHA CHA CHA!” Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I’ve already been flooded with messages and I’m starting this day feeling loved and hopeful.

Two things guaranteed that today would be a quiet celebration. First, the biggest fireworks in the city happen downtown, which would be like asking friends to sit in traffic gridlock if I wanted to, say, meet them for dinner.

And then there’s my stepdad, who has passed the point of speaking or eating or doing much in the way of responding to this realm. We’ve been bracing for the impact of his passing for a couple of years, more intensely in recent months, and round-the-clock for the past several days. I’m well past dreading the idea that he could pass away on my birthday. Instead, if I could take some of the good juju and love I’m receiving for this birthday, I’d pour it into the wish that he finds whatever love he needs within himself in order to let go peacefully.

I’ve decided to honeymoon with 40, and celebrate it with a crowd of people that I like soon because I want to and I actually think I deserve to. But today, this is how I want to do it. I want to be mindful and prayerful through the day and to pretend that things are brilliantly exploding in celebration of my future and my stepdad’s past through the evening. I want to meditate on passages and new beginnings and eat crab legs and be hopeful.

Earlier this week, Dec gave me the best possible birthday gift I could have asked for. He’s been reading individual words for a long time, but worried over trying to read a book by himself and often refused to try. I gently reminded him on Monday night that I still learn a lot of new words, and that lots of things that he thinks are easy, like astronomy, are things that many people would consider hard.

He slept on it, and the next morning, started reading some of the Bob Books at the breakfast table as though he’d been doing it all his life. And as silly as those short, confidence-building books are, it’s one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.

My stepdad’s life has been filled with books and I know that he would be so proud of this. So Declan read “Fun in the Sun,” to his Grandfafa before bed that same day, and I talked out loud about how many books were in the house, how avid a reader his Grandfafa had been. My stepdad tried very hard to say something in response, so I know that he heard and received this gift as well.

So far, 40 is birth and death and new language and hope and memory and a pain in the pit of my stomach. It’s Buddhist mantras wrapped in silver around my thumb as I dive through this zero, sheathed by reminders of our impermanence. It’s a call to live well and let things happen, make things happen, to live by the serenity prayer and be more open, more loving.

This song came up on my iPod on my way to my son’s camp this morning, and it strummed every nerve in my body:  Calling All Angels.

Listen, be well, have a beautiful weekend and if you’re into prayer, say one for my stepdad, ok?

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“When did you get to be so old?” was my mother-in-law’s question when I reminded her what my age would be this year. I am, after all, the child bride of her second-to-youngest son, replete with fresh young preschool-aged child. I’m not supposed to be pushing this kind of zero. But I am.

Today begins my staring contest with 40. I’m in the company of a number of my favorite bloggers, which I find oddly comforting in a 21st-century way.

A friend of mine, who just turned 40, told me she had the most trouble with the fact she was leaving her 30s. I’ve loved my 30s too. There’s been some hard personal stuff and way too much bad government, but they beat my 20s with an ugly stick. I plan to soak up this last year as much as I can, while keeping a close eye on the women I know in their 40s, 50s, 60s (and 80s!) who make those places look like such fabulous destinations.

And as my mom reminded me this morning, 39 is the age that Jack Benny liked so much, he stayed there for 41 years.

Jack Benny Vs. Groucho 1955Click here for more amazing videos

Marilyn Monroe on Jack Benny Show 1953Click here for the funniest movie of the week

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Have your cake and be one too

Like a girl in a field being showered with apple cores (or maybe noodles… or slips of paper?) as they are cast from the gallows of a flying submarine, my birthday hit me with a barrage of little surprises. There were several unexpected emails and phone calls and messages, and a visit with a sweet and feisty two-day-old boy – so much like Dec was as a newborn – all of which made it really enjoyable. To be thought of is a fabulous gift. (I also got a non-birthday related award this week.)

The amazing drawing above, by this artist, was my most spectacular material item, bestowed by my mother. Behold! I also received a jazz voodoo potholder and a portrait of my family in cake:

Me, hogging the computer.

Declan, agog at the planets.

Dan, apparently wearing some kind of Mankini.

Better still, it was delicious.

Have a happy Independence Day. Hope to see some of you locals at Doo Dah.

P.S. Those battling mommyblogging factions I mentioned? They seem to have worked things out. Now there’s going to be some giant knitting circle and Magic Garden sing-along at BlogHer in celebration of unity. Huzzah!

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