Today, October 4th, 2016, is my 38th birthday. I was born 38 years ago, at 3:38am and I love the story Mom tells of my swift arrival, of how she awoke with a monstrous contraction in the middle of the night and she and Dad raced to the hospital and how I was almost born in an elevator. I talked to Mom earlier today and she told me that she woke up early this morning, right around the very time I was born. Oh did this make me smile. I think, as moms, we never forget this stuff, this most important, most primal stuff. Having Mom healthy on this birthday is not something I take for granted. Not for a minute. (I love you to itty-bitty pieces, Mom.)
Last night, bedtime stretched on because, well, I let it. Because I wanted to. Little Girl was so sad because she and a friend had made a brilliant fort in her room and she desperately wanted to sleep in it, on the wood floor, and we wouldn’t let her. She was tired and weepy and I just scooped her up and got into bed with her. I am sorry you’re sad, baby, but we need you to sleep in your bed and get good rest. We talked and talked and slowly, she cheered up. And then, something magical: one by one, my other daughters joined us. First, my oldest. Then, my middle babe. The four of us just huddled there in the dark room and talked and laughed and snuggled and ignored the clock. I thought: This. This is what it’s all about. And then there were kisses and more kisses and three tuck-ins and chapters read-aloud. It was a prolonged process, but I didn’t care.
And I woke up this morning and felt a bit foggy and out-of-sorts because I hadn’t heard my alarm, so I was up later than I wanted to be. I’d hoped for some early morning writing/pondering time and instead had to barrel into my busy day. I implored myself to surrender and breathe and to enjoy the first moments of my day, but this was tricky for me. Birthdays have always been weird for me, guys. I don’t know why. They make me feel sheepish and shy. I don’t want the attention and yet I do. I don’t want anyone to make a fuss and yet I do. I worry that people will not remember and then, particularly in this day of social media, they do and I feel happy and relieved, but there are certainly insecurities that rear up on this day, and then shame and embarrassment about those insecurities. I’m not sure what any of this is about, but I can see it all a bit more clearly as I get older and I try not to fight it or make it other than what it is. This is who I am. This is likely who I always will be.
But my sweet girls? They’ve made me love birthdays much much more. They shower me with thoughtful trinkets and homemade cards. This morning, I received: a pheasant paperweight from my littlest, a Bright Ideas notebook from my biggest (to jot ideas for my next novel, she says!) and a beautiful tree scarf from my middlest (who steals and sleeps with all my scarves). Also: a wrapped chocolate milk box from a mysterious guy named Bob which made us all laugh lots. It was perfect.
And my guy? As I showered and got ready for a day of apple- and pumpkin-picking with my baby and her kindergarten class, he noticed that we were out of coffee and he raced to Dunkin’ Donuts and came back with a giant coffee for me. This is love, guys. I had him snap a zillion pictures of me and the girls and got kind of stressy and bossy about capturing the perfect shot even though I know there’s no such thing and it doesn’t matter.
What matters: we were together, are together. Everything else is icing. It really is.
Instead of putting my babies on the bus, I took them to school. And this was fun and special, to see them skip through the door to school, to turn and wave bye.
I spent most of the day on the field trip to Stuart’s Farm with my littlest. The weather was exquisitely fall-esque and breezy and I held her little hand and lifted her to pluck apples that were up high. I trailed her as she found the perfect pumpkin. I watched her eat her turkey sandwich with her friends and then after lunch, the kids all scampered up a big hill and squealed and rolled down. I thought to myself, This is childhood. This is joy.
When she got back on the yellow bus to head back to school, she was so sad. Sad to leave me. As tears filled her eyes, I felt that familiar lurch within. Her sadness was mine; I wanted to grab her and snuggle her, but instead I waved and waved as the bus pulled away, knowing in my heart she was fine. And that I was, too.
And then we moms got ciders and pastries from the farm bakery and my mind switched gears. It’s not just my birthday, but the paperback release date of my novel THE RAMBLERS. I yanked the copy I’d thought to bring and held it up over a bin of pumpkins for a snazzy photo. I shared the photo on social media from the backseat of a fellow mom’s car. Doing so made me so nauseated; it does every time.
Back in the city, I killed some time before picking up my oldest daughter at school. I talked with some friends as we waited for dismissal. When my girl came out of school, she seemed quiet and I could tell something was wrong. She looked me in the eye and told me she forgot to do her writing homework. Oh, her beautiful blue eyes were filled with tears and I just pulled her to me and held her. I said things. Things that came from the deepest parts of me. Oh baby. It’s okay. We all forget sometimes. All of us. I know this feeling though and it’s terrible. I love you and I promise everything is okay and you know what your tears show me? That you care. As long as you try, baby, as long as you are kind and try, I will always be on your side. You will do your writing homework tonight! I love you! It’s okay. And your teachers understand. You are all learning! I love you.
Oh did I go on and on and on. Oh did I mean every single word. Oh did I see myself in my child.
Then we got frozen yogurt. Several flavors and tons of outlandish, delicious toppings. Pure, amazing excess. I stole candy corns as we walked home. I kissed the top of her head.
And now we are both in my room. I’m on the chaise and she’s at my little desk, working away. I keep stealing glances over there at her and she is so young and getting so big and I’m filled with emotion and wild, woolly, intrepid love. These girls.
It is after 5pm and in the past, I would probably be pouring my first glass of wine or thinking about it. There’s part of me that would like to do this, that longs for the feeling of release and glee that I know those first sips would bring. But the better part of me, the bigger part of me, is happy right here with my silly cucumber seltzer. 70 days ago, I chose to be honest with myself, to commit to this path of clarity, to feeling it all, to taking care of myself, and it’s not always easy, this path, but my goodness, it’s full and complicated and beautiful and I’m grateful.
After homework is finished, we will head out, the five of us, for a neighborhood dinner. I will sit with my best guy and my best girls and we will eat yummy food and laugh and talk about our days. It will be simple and special and everything good.
38 years. Of love. Of life. What I can say on this tricky exquisite day of mine is that I’m so madly thankful for this family, this life, all of it. Before Dad died, when he knew his days were numbered, we asked him how he wanted to spend the rest of his time. You know what he said?
More of the same.
I get it, Dad. I do. That’s what I want too.
Thank you, guys, for your sweet birthday wishes and for your ongoing support of my writing. Means the absolute world.