That was Lillian’s tag line for many comments … on her birthday.
“Henry is being obnoxious, which is completely unnecessary … on my birthday!”
“Tell him to stop annoying me. I cannot tolerate it … on my birthday!”
And, when I heard her arguing with her brother, who quickly accused, “Lillian started it!” Her calm and oh-so-logical response was, “Oh no, I didn’t. Why would I start anything mean … on my birthday?”
On Friday night, I kissed her forehead as she snuggled tucked in for bed. “This is the last goodnight kiss I get to give to you as a five-year-old,” I whispered.
She sighed in sweet anticipation of the next day, when she would (at long last!) turn six. She’d been counting the days since May. And then, once she discovered she was going to celebrate her birthday along with her baby cousin’s baptism at the house of one of her most favorite people, she was beyond excited.
In the morning, I announced her first six-year-old kiss, and she beamed eager to accept it. I could see the wheels turning as she contemplated what the day would hold. I wondered if she analyzed herself the way I did at some of my early birthdays. I can distinctly remember thinking: I don’t feel any different. Or look any different. I worried I was missing something or that the whole birthday thing was a sham.
It really was a spectacular day. There were minor melt downs associated with hula-hoops and Shrinky Dinks, and little and big boys’ hands on newly acquired birthday gifts. I’m sure if you had just unwrapped a Princess Celestia My Little Pony and your brother was trying to cart it off, you might get a little weak-kneed yourself.
The number of declarations that this was her “best birthday ever!” far outnumbered the “worst birthday ever” claims. I think she only once slammed her door in disgust, which makes it a banner day.
We enjoyed the fabulously tasty and beautiful Pink Elephant cupcakes, and she and the other children swam, swam, swam.
Now, just humor my moment of reminiscence. That change that happens between five and six seems to me almost unfair. In that year’s time, I’ve watched my little girl – as I have the three children before her – change so dramatically. She’s become more connected to reality, and her sense of humor has morphed into that of a 10-year-old boy (thanks Henry!) more than I’d like to admit. Her face has changed. Her features aren’t as soft, and reveal many more angles and much less baby fat, even when compared with photographs taken just a few short months ago.
I don’t know if it’s a sign of wisdom or desperation, but I feel a vigorous need to cherish the nuances of each stage the children are sprinting through. Perhaps since our oldest is now 20, I have a living, breathing reminder of how very, very fast it all goes.
Oddly though, even as I write this, I’m not a documenter. I don’t scrapbook or take much video. Unlike the example set by my parents, I sadly don’t have a library of beautifully arranged leather photo albums filled with only the best snap shots.
But when I look into the eyes of my children, I try with my might to save fleeting glimpses of their hearts – hoping that I if I collect enough morsels of those sweet love memories, I will have an abundance to feed me when they are all grown.
Every single time we exit the van, Lillian runs to the swing that Richard hung in our front tree. She jumps on and quickly returns to her cherished dream world: chattering to herself, head back, hair blowing. Richard and I have many times watched and wondered what memories she will keep of doing that.
As I watch her – toes pointing to the sky and eyes gazing into the leafy green – it is my hope that she too gathers morsels that will sustain her when time and the stuff of life eventually forces her feet (at least occasionally) to be firmly planted on the ground.