Last week I had an eight year old and now she's nine. Our birthday celebrations have always been simple, and this year was no exception. We're a family of shy introverts; planning the kind of birthday party that is common today in America is beyond my reach and desire. So perhaps I fail in this part of motherhood. I don't think I care. My girls are still floating and dancing and giggling and shrieking, so I hope this is not creating a dark scar on their hearts to share with therapists in later years. It's our tradition, an understated, family oriented gathering, focused on the food that someone spent the day creating - kneading, pouring, grating, and whipping their happiness at this person's existence into deliciousness. My mother's family had these kinds of birthdays, and when we came along, her five girls, this is what she gave us.
Consequently, we've raised our children to have, well, low material expectations on their birthday. They are both blessed to have been born in beautiful months, months that invite humans out to play, walk, forage, run, and bike. We've shown them that they have our attention on their birthdays. They have our time and skillset for whatever they are creating that day. What they consider to be gastronomically delightful will be served with a flourish. We'll all spend time together. We're very casual about gifts; this year I'm planning on taking my brand new nine year old out to pick up some art supplies later in the week. I would say that our focus is less of a celebration of the day one person in our family was born and more of a celebration about the role and space that person occupies in our family and our appreciation of that.
This is not a minimalist rant against birthday parties. I'm just sharing an aspect of our lives that has always been minimal and is probably even more so lately. I have been to some fantastic little parties; they were small, focused on playing rather than things, and not heavily structured. It's so easy to get carried away today - where only a 2K weekend in Manhattan with a gaggle of teens will do. Where some girl whose parents fall on the lower end of the income spectrum feels stigmatized because she doesn't have enough money to chip in on a piece of expensive jewelry for someone in her cliques birthday. That's a shame. A birthday, to my mind, has very little to do with belongings and places and everything to do with gratitude and love. If a length of streamers and some friends helps celebrate that, good. If debt, anxiety, and the feeling of being overwhelmed swamp you - not good.
For us, it was a lovely birthday weekend.
A sunflower bloomed after nearly a week of constant checking on its tightly closed status. To me, auspicious. She's a sunny, mild child. Sweet mango juice runs through her veins. Her face is round and open; I hope this is never lost. I also hope her days are filled with the splash of joy an open sunflower brings.
Balloons, a novelty for the toddler; she called them her ears (WTH?).
Requests for Key Lime Pie. It's a fresh favourite and pairs well with our weather now.
Homemade pasta; a true sign of love as our kitchen is still dismantled and pasta paraphernalia was strewn across a messy table.
Nine candles. I'm happy. I'm wistful. Her feet long ago shed their dinner roll chubbiness and now her mind is maturing - it's always too fast, yes?
Blow by blow accounts of what my uterus was doing at this time or that time 9 years ago.
Repeated trips with just Dad/The Simple Man to the hardware store. They come home with bits and bobs, copper tubing, wire, dreams of projects. Oh, and kitchen tiles. Lots of tiles.
How do you celebrate birthdays?