Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The More Things Change...

This is a re-post from four years ago. Reading it, I realize not much has changed in our family birthday tradition from when the children were little. Today I went to the girls room and woke Margaret so we could watch the sun rise together. We used the same present/breakfast plan, and had a few manipulative tears over Margaret's sharing her roller skates with one of the boys. But for the most part life is still, happily, the same. Geoffrey from Toys R Us always calls us twice in the middle of our breakfast, and we dismiss him ("It's Geoffrey calling--again!) like he's some pathetic giraffe-faced stalker. Margaret wanted her cousin, Hadley, for her birthday, so my sister and I met halfway between our houses, and spent an hour (or was it 2 hours...) in a Hardee's chatting our hearts out. It was a good day, despite having to retrieve the boys from the Men's room 20 or more times.

Which reminds me how when Margaret was finished potty training and we would go to any public location with her, she would announce with the dearest cluck of her tongue and honey-voice, "I think I have to go to the bathroom..." And she would turn her head back and forth as if she were in a
lovely flower garden, and all she needed to find was a sweet daisy. After a while, knowing she was just wanting to use the bathroom like a big girl, we would say she was going "on tour."

Now she has transferred her love for public bathrooms to pushing shopping carts every where we go. She has preferred stores because of their shopping cart quality. The other day she said in an ordinary voice, "Pushing shopping carts. It's my passion."

Which means my little girl needs a hobby, and probably needs to get out more--into the non-retail world.

* * *

So today is Margaret's sixth birthday. For sentimental reasons I try to wake up before sunrise because the sunrise was the most memorable moment of her actual birthday (apart from the birth itself). I looked out my bedroom window mere moments after she was born, and saw the sun peeking over the tops of the trees on the horizon. I called everyone's attention to it at the time, because it was such a beautiful welcome. I wanted to nickname her "Sunny" because of it, but apparently there's some Italian tradition that a man calls his eldest son, "Sonny." At the time we didn't have any boys, and didn't seem to have any prospects for more children, but we didn't call her "Sunny" just the same. We don't call Max "Sonny" either, but at least we allowed for the possibility, which might satisfy the 25% of Fr Mark's Italian blood.

This morning the children came down, as they do on every birthday, ready to help Margaret find her hidden presents in the den. I discovered some new hiding places, so she didn't find them as quickly as the kids usually do. There are only so many places to hide something in a 12x20 foot space.

Then, as part of the tradition, after Papa leaves for work, we make pancakes in the shape of the birthday-child's name. We light candles, sing Happy Birthday, and then eat. So this morning, I accidentally sang "Happy birthday dear Ella...uh...Meggy...happy birthday to you!" Margaret was patient with me and gave me a weak smile. Rose said, "Make a wish!" But in the ensuing seconds where Meggy was getting a big breath to blow out the candles, Little Mark blew out one and Max blew out three. That left a two pathetic flames sitting unceremoniously amid five smoking pink & yellow candle butts. That was all Meggy could handle and she stormed out. She came back a few minutes later and she tried it again, but the magic was obviously gone.

Which is why I consider this our run-through for birthday cake tonight. I can't remember how many times I have come close to spanking a child over birthday cake. Several times they have become suddenly shy and withdrawn and have refused to blow. Grandparents and cousins sit and wait with bated breath for the big moment. The "Happy Birthday" melody fades into the ether, the moment arrives, and the child slaps a hand over her mouth and runs from the room.

Also part of the tradition, is my wishing that I had never given a single gift. If I don't monitor all of the activity, someone falls or runs over somebody else's fingers. This morning all was well until they began "taking turns" to ride the scooter around the house. If I don't use a timer, there's bound to be an argument. But then there's the added element of the scooter actually belonging to Margaret which throws a monkey wrench into all of the turns and sharing. Meanwhile Little Mark is walking around the house with the voice modulator repeating some gobbledegook in a high-pitched Munchkin Land voice over and over and over and over. Apparently if you hold down the "play" button, you can make it repeat the phrase until kingdom-come or someone throws it out the window.

I didn't realize until I saw the photo up close that I accidentally put 7 candles on her cake. What a mother I am.
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