This is the first birthday you've had in which you've actually not been home. In fact, this is the first birthday of any of my children in which I haven't been able to see my child on his or her birthday. I know I'll see you Friday, but I do detect a bit of a trend.
When you and your brother were small we tried the BIG BIRTHDAYS-- we invited everyone we knew and attempted to entertain. We weren't very good at it, but we tried. I remember when your brother sobbed through his birthday party because he didn't realize the piñata was meant to be torn apart, and when you got spanked for kicking your babysitter in the shin. In your defense, we had just moved away and asked her to come to your party because we knew you missed her--that was always your way. The first time your brother came back from camp, you hauled off and slapped him in the face. You are not kind to those who leave you, Chicken, even if it's not their fault.
It wasn't until Zoomboy turned three that I realize what a disservice we'd done you. When he was three, we had a tiny birthday party, and grandma and grandpa came over and Auntie Wendy, and he got two toys and spent hours under the kitchen table playing with one little toy. He was so happy. We've kept the little kids' birthdays small ever since. You and Big T would have been so happy if we'd only not told you that your BIRTHDAY would be the day that all wrongs were righted, all childhood sorrows ended, and when you were given friends forever and ever amen.
But it was too late by then. You and Big T were already prepped for the terrible cycle of anticipation and disappointment. You know the song-- "Children waiting for the day they feel good, happy birthday, happy birthday…" That was you. Ice skating, Chuck E. Cheese, slumber parties, the entire soccer team over for pizza-- we tried so hard to make your birthday a HUGE EVENT, because that's how we felt about YOU-- that you were HUGE EVENTS in our lives, and we wanted to celebrate that.
Forgive us. We were young. Not that you're not HUGE EVENTS, but that the celebration needs to not be gaudy. That you were both so sensitive to any and all fantasies about what life would be like on the BIG DAY that any let down only served to break your heart.
Your heart has been broken many times.
And you try so hard to be cynical and laid back now, like it doesn't really get to you that you can't count on life to give your heart the things it needs. But you can't hide who you really are. You can't hide that a pet rat gives you ridiculous happiness, or that having your cat come up and scratch you when you come home from school makes you proud that you brought the little sociopath up right. You can't hide that you love children and you could play with them for hours (when I could barely play barbies with you for ten minutes, much to my shame) or that sometimes you just need a good cry. You can't hide that you're disappointed in me because for all my feminism I still buy into the social lie that shaving your armpits is the natural order of things, or that you think pudgy mom with her warrior hamster knitting needles is more that a little ridiculous.
But for all that you are smarter than us (aren't all twenty-year olds smarter than their parents?) you still love us. You're still happy to hear from us, and text us about your grades and tell us about your day. So today, your birthday is just another day for you, Chicken. You set it up in your head to just be an average day, and you were sort of irritated that we called and texted because it's still a BIG DEAL to us that twenty years ago, mom walked into the hospital at 7:30 pm and you were born at 8:20 pm and they kicked us out at 10:30 am, and if you hadn't been so tough, my tiniest baby (8 lbs was small for my babies) you would not have survived that winter in the hills without heat, or the ventricle defect that might not have closed, or the time your brother tried to drown you with orange juice because mom couldn't get there fast enough and you were crying.
So yes. Your absence leaves a hole here in our tiny house, and even though we have more than enough crap and children to fill the hole physically, we miss you very very much. We miss you on your birthday, and we will miss you as you go off to fulfill what I think is going to be a very very awesome promising future.
Just remember to take that future one day at a time, Chicken. Learn the lesson we did. Don't live for the BIG EVENT or the FANTASTIC MOMENT. Live for the small moments, the rat in the hood, the pretty pretty yarn, being right about something mom is wrong about, someday having a place where your psychopathic cat (or another psychopathic cat) may scratch your shins at will.
Your life has been a collection of amazing, trying, painful, wonderful small moments. I miss that you are not here everyday. We have seen many grandmothers pass away, and before they've passed, every one of them has gone back in their minds to the time their children were young and lived at home, and they were loved and needed. That's one of the things I look forward to in my old age, Chicken. Reliving the time when you were young and lived at home, and you needed me.
But I'll never doubt your love.
Happy Birthday, Chicken--