To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 years old.
Birthdays are emotional, I tell you what. For me and Dad (8 years ago we were what???), for you, for Paul…all the feelings. Paul comes out of your bedroom and collapses in a heap of fuss at the breakfast table. You spend 15 minutes in your room, picking your outfit, grooming, preparing for your day. (“I look perfect today,” you tell me later.) By the time you emerge, Dad has taken Paul for a game of tennis with head lamps to cheer him up, and you find a stack of chocolate chip pancakes on your plate. They’re sort of a murkey aqua color from the rainbow sprinkles I stirred in. You tuck in while reading Dog Man.
You are very sensitive to Paul’s distress about your special day. “Paul’s birthday was really hard for me,” you tell me quietly. You let him choose when you open presents, and agree on one this morning. I recommend it—one that has a little something for him, too. We leave for school with your two new little bird lovies flying along beside us.
As usual, Paul runs ahead once we get to school grounds. We say goodbye to him, and you take Dad’s hand and mine, and walk between us to the front door. Hugs all around and wishes for a happy day. You tell me that at 10:30, during reading, you told your friends you were now 8 years old. Later, you share chocolate chip cookies with the class, and save one for Paul.
Usually on Mondays you go to an afterschool art club for an hour, but today I pick you both right up so you can play at the park with some friends. On your way out, you open another present. ROLLER SKATES, from Gobka and Gamma. We lace them up, and you do a few slippery laps around the kitchen.
Donning your birthday crown and sash, you head to meet best-friend Alex in the park, and invite her back home. She tidies up the loft and bangs around on the piano; you enjoy her company. At 4:20 she says goodbye, and you do some epic building in Minecraft while I attend a last meeting and Dad cooks mac and cheese for dinner.
We eat. Gobka and Gamma call to sing to you. We present you with a birthday cake, a treasured family recipe that shall remain nameless, made by your cousin Lyla. You eat a few bites, regretfully inform us you no longer like this cake, and eat a popsicle instead. (We are not to tell Lyla lest we hurt her feelings. It was, in actual fact, delicious.)
(Your birthday wish is to be together again with all your friends in class next year, and no one leaves.)
Dad and Paul adjourn to the tennis courts, again. You open another present—a drawing instruction book from Granddad and Susu, which you declare “very cool,” and read a bit more Dog Man. Then it’s time for some additional roller skating through all rooms of the house. You hold onto my arm and are very careful of my toes.
I start a bath for Paul, and you convince Dad to read you some Norse mythology. You’re deep into the D’aulaires tales and going strong. He keeps reading through your bath as well, and into bedtime. You settle in to rest, and we say goodnight at 7:40ish.
THUMP. Twenty minutes later, you’re back in the living room.
“Mom, I don’t like it when the light is off. Today at school we watched a movie with a chupacabra in it, and now I’m scared of it.”
Back on goes the light. You climb into Paul’s bed for company, with another Dog Man book to read and your favorite Christmas sweater on for comfort. You are a girl who knows what she needs, and my god, I love you so much.