Tag Archiv: birthdays
We’re a little more than halfway through this year’s birthday season. I’m limping a bit on the enthusiastic party zeal, but working hard to fake it. No one knows how many times I’ve fondly rememberd the conversation where Boy one said he didn’t want a birthday party this year. No one knows I shed tears wanting him immediately crowned my favourite child when I recall it.
I find strange comforts in the midst of afflictions. Girl two’s birthday party (not to be confused with her family birthday dinner – the math on this is 4 kids x 2 celebrations minus one party thanks to current favourite child = 7 events in just over two months) was an example of this. I didn’t use to serve lunch at parties but it’s a good time killer while you’re looking at your watch to see how many more minutes until the party your child looks forward to all year is over.
I went to buy hot dogs for the party, only to broadsided at the store by my North American-waste-panic, concurrent with my panic about nutrition vs. people eating what feels like fun to them. Illogically, I could deal with the hot dogs themselves, but the thought of white buns instead of whole wheat sent me over the edge. In went the whole wheat buns to my cart. A minute later I was back exchanging them for white. I got them in, then I took them out. After much deliberation, I resolved to buy precisely one package of 8 white buns, come back another day when I was stronger to finish the shopping, and make this the last time I ever bought them. Driving away I pictured future birthday parties and the possibility of blindfolding picky visitors until they had finished eating their proper brown buns.
Of course, I never made it back to the store. The party began. There were 6 children in attendance. Celebrations are about extravagance. I decide to gamble on eight hot dog buns anyway. Some people take chances on cards, some people take chances they can outmaneuver seven year olds. We all have our vices. I sweat, but I do not panic. There’s actually a strange kind of pleasure in the challenge.
I put some fries in the oven. I prepared the hot dogs and cut each one in half. I made a mountain of carrot sticks and apple slices. Each child got a plate with half a hot dog, some fries, and their choice of fruit or veggie. I poured milk and I served slowly. Everyone who asked for seconds was served. Eventually, I brought around seconds until everyone refused more and gave the leftovers to a stray sibling.
The white bread guilt is gone. Party weariness disappeared that day. I served 6 children as much as they wanted with a mere 8 hot dog buns, none of whose pasty whiteness remained on my counter. And yes, there’s a bit of an afterglow just remembering it again.
We’re squeezing out the last joys of fall while winter whispers that its coming. The smell of the leaves is fainter but not gone. The sound of my sneakers on the path still sings with leaves crunching underneath and brushing against each other.
This year’s fire wood has been drying for at least a year. Next year’s wood is being split and stacked. We’re using the wood stove, but it’s not even close to the continual feeding of wood and blazing fires that winter will bring. Black winter jackets have gone on the bee hives and mouse guards have been tacked across their bottom entrances. Little by little, we’re battening down the hatches and getting ready.
Rumors of rising electricity bills have me dreaming again of hanging my clothes on the line all winter. I’ve learned from experience to commit in smaller chunks. Nothing like a whole season weighing on my shoulders to make me give up before I start. Ergo, I’m hoping to hang the clothes all winter, but I’m only promising one additional load to the one that just went up on the line. If I make it to the end of December, I get a party. If I make it to the end of January, I get an entire day off. It may be cheaper to run the dryer than to get my just desserts if I make it to the end of February.
I have a sense of accomplishment this week. We made it to the end of birthday season. All kids dutifully celebrated. All details of figuring when and what and with whom are past. Memories of overwhelming are melded together in the shape of a birthday cake. Fuzzy. Like the feeling most people get after a few glasses of wine. Or that I get after a swallow.
Pudding cakes were the big hit this year. They require a cake, a wooden spoon to poke holes all over it, and some fresh homemade pudding to pour into the holes and all over the top. Fun while they lasted, but I’m not sure I’ll make another one before Christmas. Maybe not until Easter. Who knows. Who cares. They’re officially all clocked in now at 6, 9, 11, and 14. For another year, it’s over.
Oblivious to its role as an illusion, time, like the seasons, dependably marches on.
In the kitchen:
Boy two wanted to cook. With much delight, he sequestered himself for the making of the world’s best molasses cookie ever. I am descended from a master of molasses and make a pretty fine molasses cookie myself. I tasted his cookies ready to sweetly encourage him from the heights of my better way. But his cookies weren’t ok, they were amazing. Starting to feel a little threatened, I reminded myself to be happy for him. He is after all my son. Just because he killed the competition on his first shot at molasses cookies didn’t mean my contributions to the craft of cooking had no value.
To comfort myself, I ate a lot of cookies. Secret ingredients were enthusiastically confessed as I ate. Clarity came not with the choice of ingredients, but rather their amounts. My prize Mexican vanilla (for which one needs half the called for amount to equal three times the glorious flavor) had been used by a boy who didn’t wait excitedly for it to arrive, procured by relatives visiting in Arizona. The cookies were soaked in vanilla like fruit cake in brandy. Undercooked cookie consumption could have meant a drunk driving charge. The recipe called for a teaspoon. Boy two used a 1/4 cup. (That’s 12.5 times the amount the recipe called for if anyone’s curious.) I’m going to stick to my recipe after all, but if I ever want a very pricey cookie, I know who to call.
On the way to school:
Girl one says God can do anything.
Girl two is sympathetic to her position but not convinced. God is great and everything, she says, but . . . God has never turned a mother into a baby. He has turned a baby into a mother, but never a mother into a baby. And even when he turns a baby into a mother it’s not very fast. It takes like a really long time. So maybe he can turn a mother into a baby, but so far, he never has.
After dinner exchanges:
I see Boy two give Girl one some money. I can’t figure out why, so I take the money away, give it back to him along with advice not to share, and go about my business. He takes his money and goes upstairs to find Girl one. I can hear him giving her the money again.
She doesn’t need your money, I say when he returns. It’s really ok to have your own things.
Don’t worry, he says rubbing his hands together with a wicked smile. The only birthdays left are hers and mine. I’m just helping make my present even bigger.
Dear Birthday Girl,
When you were born, I was so afraid I was shaking. Outside I was smiling but inside I was scared down to the deepest parts of me. I wondered if God had made a mistake – not about you, just about letting me be your mom. I wanted you so much the words for wanting you couldn’t get out without closing up my throat and coming out in a whisper. But you were a girl. And a girl was me. And I didn’t have any idea how to be someone that you would want to grow up to be like.
You took care of that part, being so much yourself that I didn’t have to worry about you trying to be like me, I just had to love you. And that was easy.
I’m glad I got that little jean jacket outfit for you when you were a baby. Otherwise, I would have never seen what my kind of clothes looked like on you. As soon as you could walk and open drawers, you tore off anything you didn’t like. Only the frilly stuff stayed on, so I could dress you in what you loved or find you playing naked and search the premises for whatever reject outfit I’d chosen.
Here’s a picture of my favourite present you ever gave me. You made it for me when you were about five, wrapped in tissue paper in a box and you danced while I opened it.
“You’re going to love it. I made it myself.” And then leaping and pointing. “See! It’s a rosary. There’s the beads. And the cross. I got it off the bottom of a toy car. I couldn’t believe it. Doesn’t it look just like a cross?”
Eventually, when summer came and the sun got hot on my dresser, I found out that you had used molasses for the glue to hold it all together. Three years later, the top of the coffee lid medallion is still sticky. It was too perfect to change so I didn’t.
So much you have taught me, my curious, artsy, feminine, non-conformist.
By Sunday we will be three quarters through birthday season. Birthday season is something I should have been warned about. At my high school we had an entire semester devoted to reproductive education. Hours upon hours on basic mechanics and never, not once, ever, did anyone give so much as three seconds to such a thing. My mother, that matron of proud practicality? Also silent. Ten years ago, the fact that she was unfortunately only here for the birth of my first child might have excused her, but I’m Catholic now and that means the little line between death and life on earth isn’t quite so cut and dried. Believing now that death is no match for love and that if anything she loves me more now, there really is almost excuse for the oversight. I’m not holding it against her, but really as my mother – surely she could have found a way to say something, after say child #2, about the importance of NOT creating a birthday season.
It isn’t the number of kids – we’d have been happy to have more if had worked out that way – it’s inventing a new holiday season when there are already enough. It’s having four birthdays in ten weeks. And all. those. parties.
Because we a) live in the country b) are a tiny bit introvertish and c) live in a world where everyone we meet runs madly from thing to thing to thing, birthday parties are the last best piece of kids being kids together. . . at least that’s the kind of parties we try to have. Our kids really look forward to their parties, so that means 4 friend parties plus 4 birthday dinners with extended family . . .all in 10 weeks.
Did I mention that it was birthday season that brought Misty and Shorty here in the first place?
It’s ok, Mom. I forgive you. Besides, I’m already half way through it again this year.