It got off to an inauspicious start as we woke once again to the reality of my having broken our coffee pot. It really defies description the way a nearly imperceptible tap from the plastic cutting board severed the point of the coffee pot where the side and bottom meet. I kept meaning to go and buy another, but that particular task fell to the bottom of the to-do list day after day.
We enjoyed a week of “take-out” coffee, but this morning as Sean tried to deliver coffee in bed, he was hampered by the fact that I’d moved the lighters and that when he decided to deliver the coffee cake sans lit candle, Briar balked.
“Dad, no! We need the candle to be lighted! And my card, my card! My card isn’t done yet!” she shrieked with an alarmingly panicked tone.
“Briar, come on. It’s fine.” Sean said as he made his way up the stairs.
She was gasping and sputtering in a way I know in my core. Flashback 30 years and I was upset over missing something, of having it go down in a way that wasn’t just-right. It was unnecessary and dramatic, but it was real. That’s the thing about emotions, to people on the outside they may seem spectacular or even absurd, but inside you in that moment, they are debilitatingly real.
I shooed away the fog and shushed everyone. “It’s perfect, I love it. I think the lighters are by the candles in the tall cabinet. Go, I don’t even have my glasses, I haven’t seen a thing.” I leaned back into the pillows as the wave of frustrated, but well-intentioned love went back downstairs to start anew.
As Sean rattled around the kitchen, I luxuriated in the torpedo-sized gift he’d left (ahem, a Starbucks gift). Finley tiptoed in, curtsied at my bedside and presented me with a card she’d made. It was filled with broad strokes of blue colored-pencil which surrounded a purple flourish.
“Do you love it, mom” she asked with an impossibly endearing blush to her cheeks.
“Of course I love it! What is this purple? Is this me in the water? Is this the lake?” I asked grinning from ear to ear.
“Yes, that is you in the water. That part is your hair and those are your eyes, but they aren’t green in the picture, they are blue because the water is over them. Do you really love it?” her cheeks were rosy and her eyes flashed with pride.
“The only thing I love more than this card is you. Thank you, Finley. It’s perfect. The best birthday gift ever.”
We hugged and she skipped out of the room singing a pastiche of lyrics from songs from the movie Annie. Then it was Avery’s turn.
“Mama, here’s my card. It’s you and me and we are holding balloons for the celebration of your day, your birthday. You are the one with the green eyes. I made it.” She beamed.
“Honey, I love it. I love the way you drew us holding balloons. And we are holding hands!” We grinned at one another.
“When are the people coming?” she asked. I smiled at her and patted my lap. “Come here,” she scampered up onto the bed and rested her head on my shoulder and ran her hand along my arm until she found her favorite freckle. “Today I want to spend the day just with you. I want to be with you girls and daddy for my special day.”
“So you won’t have a party?” her impossibly large blue eyes gazed up at me, worried. “No, it’s more like I’ll have a small party with just the right number of people. Our family is exactly right for my party, after all, there are five of us. That’s a lot!” We cuddled there for a minute before she scooted away.
I heard Sean padding up the stairs, my heart gave a now-familiar tug that signals a hurt from joy; a keen understanding of something happening simply because I wanted it so. He was whispering to Briar, “Come on, B. You can show her the card in a minute.” His voice was soft, a little too gentle, as he overrode his impulse to snap her out of it. “Here we go, let’s sing, the candle is lit.”
They stepped into the room, Ave and Fin at the head, Briar tucked behind Sean. The force of my birth hit me, always a believer, drawn to light and joy, I discovered new layers upon the births I witnessed in action. My daughters, slivers of me from which so much more has sprung.
As they sang my eyes devoured their faces, the muted light filled the contours of their faces. This summer of sprinting through trails cut through forests, of leaping into choppy water and of exploring the lives of toads and caterpillars has changed them, inside and out. I squinted my eyes as Briar came more into my line of vision. She is so tall, a delicate reed beside Sean with eyes filled with hope laced with flight. She perches here with us, but is one foot toward running to something else. Her card had us holding hands, again, my eyes were green. On the inside she’d made a garden from the word ‘mommy.’ She is growing into her handwriting, traces of this hand will be there when she dashes notes on papers during visits home. I’ll keep them…
Avery bounces, bumping her hip on the bed and touching Sean’s leg. Lately she is as unpredictable as she is true. So quick to help and fix things, quicker still to surprise us with a new skill. She sings now, her lyrics always framed in success. Comedic at times, but more keenly hopeful. An impulse to protect her threatens, but I hesitate for fear of marring her confidence in good. Steady and with her, ready I ‘ll be.
Then Fin. She spins like a top, dazzling, upending and then repairing. She gifts me tastes of the stages I’ve forgotten in her sisters and just as I get caught up in the reverie of what was, she shows how very different she is doing things. She is her own, but fervently committed to belonging to us, to morning cuddles and “right on your front” time. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though I know that’s coming.
“Happy birthday, babe.”
We looked at each other over the girls, our bodies weary and our eyes still not quite ready to be open. We smiled. It’s simple, cliché and absolutely true that the births of our daughters have sweetened* every day since. Today we celebrated the days since birth, beautiful every one.
*And by sweeten, I mean also enliven.