birthday

Newton stood tall, taller than me, leaning up against his new Trek as the other boys stacked wads of bills into his open palm. After handing over the cash, each one grabbed the tiny orange notebook to record their requests. Early on in his delivery service, he realized that written, signed orders were the best way to avoid problems. When the flurry ceased, he read the itemized list out loud and then stuffed it along with the bills into his gaping backpack. He reassured the sea of excited little faces, “These should be no problem. I’ll be back in time for you to wrap everything,” and with that he pulled down his sunglasses, hopped on his ride and sped off.

The boys then turned to each other with nonstop chatter, faces flushed with anticipation.

“He’s going to be so surprised!”

“That poster is awesome! I hope he puts it up in our room.”

“Or the playroom.”

“Maybe I should wrap a pack of gum, too? I think I still have an extra.”

“Come on, let’s go finish our cards for him,” they stomped back up the porch stairs and into the house.

I stood still in the driveway for a moment, a perfect day, breeze blowing against one cheek while Sawyer nuzzled the other. I was practicing a new goal:

Being present.

We’ve come so far in these years, uniting two separate families into one. There are many moments I miss, but a few like this where I see the rich picture for what it is. One of the richest is their celebration for each other. It is never forced or manipulated by us; they genuinely love to celebrate every individual little person in our tribe.

With 10 people in our immediate family now, regular life is peppered with birthdays. We do birthdays more than haircuts or yardwork or some weeks, showers. It could get old.

How many different ways are there to make someone feel special? How many different kinds of cake can be eaten before it just becomes routine?

And yet without fail the kids rally every single time, authentically loving the one to be celebrated. The ones they share blood with, the ones they share names with, the ones they share a bedroom with, the ones they share only through the marriage of their parents. Every. Single. One. Ever since Newton’s delivery service began, they love to earn money in the weeks ahead and plan for what spectacular gift they can give from the neighborhood Chocolatier or the ever-affordable Five and Below: a store teaming with treasures like foam weapons, automatic card shufflers, and $5 t-shirts in perfect line with elementary-boy humor.

My favorite moments are not even in the excitement-build I experience with them or watching the glow on the birthday boy’s face as they surround him. It is a few minutes that happen during every birthday dinner, a dinner that each child plans down to the drink and napkins (which is special in itself when you are one of many). Tonight we will be having lasagna, mashed potatoes, root beer and cherry pie – all devoured, per request, without utensils. As we lick cheesy marinara off of our fingertips someone will naturally begin the ritual.

“Magellan, I love your generosity. And how you help teach me games. And how you never let Newton bounce me off the trampoline.”

“Yeah! He does that for me too,” someone else will chime in, and pick up the baton. “He always stands up for other people. Like on the playground this summer, how you made Alex stop picking on that new little boy. And even how you defend the bugs when Wesley tries to kill them! You are brave and kind.”

And on it will go, each child, each parent, each grandparent there, calling out the gold in the birthday boy. What they love, what they see, what has grown and blossomed in a year’s time. No repeats allowed. Everyone adds something. And everyone is eager to contribute.

Divorce is a thief and there are many things lost that can’t be replaced.

And at times sharing everything with so many weighs on them and stretches them. So I soak in the days of celebration – a stealth peek at the rich layers ever-growing and cementing underneath. Each separate person makes our whole greater, especially as they lean in towards each other. Every birthday meal, every table full of beaming faces, is an aerial reminder for me that there is indeed much to celebrate.

3 Responses to “The Art of Celebration”

  1. amathai1 says:

    It is hard in the tough confusing moments to see the greater whole….thank you for this reminder.

  2. erinceleste says:

    I love how you have modeled joy and celebration for your kids. It’s such a gift that shines the everyday moments.

  3. TAD says:

    I wonder if I can get on Newton’s delivery route. I think it’s awesome how each child and adult are celebrated uniquely…even down to the napkins.

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