My memory is shaky on things like birthdays and holidays. They almost always seem to sneak up on me in some way that requires me to feign awareness—”Oh, of course I have green things for each girl to wear and little leprechaun top hats,” and “Oh, sure, big doin’s for the holiday weekend. Been planning for months.” I have the best intentions, but the dealine to sign up for things and the second Monday of each month just seem to slip through my fingers. I’ve read beautiful posts by people who would appear to have their acts together—birthday posts right on their children’s birthdays, essays on topical subjects before they cease to be topical. I’ve passed storefronts beautifully decorated to perfectly celebrate the season, when I look down at my feet they seem to be ever so slightly out of kilter with the weather.

Never quite in step.

Last night, after a flurry of cookie baking so that Avery would have cookies to take to school today, her 6th birthday, I was heading up to bed. I walked quietly upstairs with no intention other than to kiss the brow of each daughter. Ave’s room is at the top of the stairs, so I slipped in there first. I scanned the bed for her form, lately she has been a dark-tressed tangle of limbs and eyelashes. That coltish thing that happens in the instant you realize that the little girl fullness has somehow melted away is everywhere. Her eyes have come to the fore and whether they are filling with tears, flashing with anger, or sparkling with laughter, they bore into me.

I perched on the side of her bed looking at the way her dark lashes curl away from her ivory skin. The unexpected enormity of this next birthday hit me. Six. She is reading without a hitch, throwing a softball, and pulling the garbage cans up our long driveway. She is pushing back and demanding her way, all the while demonstrating an extraordinary capacity to empathize. Then there are the quirks—she wears her headbands in a way that pushes her hair up in huge bubble, no matter how I adjust it, back it goes. I used to twitch, until it settled over me that it simply feels right to her. Her favorite pair of shoes are dark brown, faux leather, fleece lined boots with gold laces and zippers up the back. They are, in a word, hideous. She picked them out herself and has literally worn them into the ground. When I pick her up at school I watch the feet, so many little feet, saltwater sandals, patent leather wedges, neon Mary Janes, pink tennis shoes, she parts the predictable sea with her scuffed, misshapen brown boots. I crack up every time.

Today, likely sporting her boots, she’ll take a basket of blue and yellow sprinkle covered moustache cookies into school. Tonight we’ll celebrate her birthday in a restaurant/brewery. Rather than a traditional party, the five of us will play hookey on Thursday in order to go and see a matinee of the theatrical production of Beaty & the Beast at Proctors Theatre. There is a part of me feeling guilty that she won’t have the traditional party at the germ-ridden, but beloved-by-children place that so many classmates hold their parties. I suspect that in the birthdays to come, we’ll move closer to what the other kids do, but on this birthday, with her quirky brown boots still her shoe of choice in 80 degree weather, I am grateful for what we have.

Still cuddly.

Undeniably herself.

Gently rebellious.

Eminently capable.

Happy birthday VaVa.