Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Birthday Number Fourteen

“I just think of it as a birthday week,” said one friend, reflecting on the fact that there are some years when the kids’ birthdays seem to go on and on and on.
Tim’s birthday celebration this year extended more or less over a span of nine days. The weekend before his birthday, he and I along with his two best friends and their moms, went to Maine. Festivities that took place between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon included dinner at a European bistro where the boys ate French fries cooked in duck fat and dipped in garlic mustard; mackerel fishing (they averaged two catches each, as well as getting their lines tangled together several times and even hooking the chum bucket once – they were simply having too much fun together to entertain the concept of spreading out a little on the deck of the boat); football and ladderball on the beach; body surfing in the waves; and mint chocolate chip ice cream pie.

Then five days later it was his actual birthday; he played a double-header of baseball and then the four of us went to the dinner buffet at his favorite Chinese restaurant. The next day, his grandparents and some other relatives came to our house for lunch; I made fajitas and, yes, a second mint chocolate chip ice cream pie.

So I’m not sorry to see his birthday behind us for another year, or at least for another 51 weeks, if his fifteenth begins a week early just as his fourteenth did. Still, there’s something so delightful about celebrating kids’ birthdays at this age. He and his friends are so carefree and were so happy to spend the weekend together. Very little in life right now could make him happier than being out on a boat fishing, or loading up his plate at a Chinese buffet.

Admittedly, it’s a little bit astounding to me to realize he’s just four years from turning eighteen. He’s hardly a kid anymore, even now; there are only three more birthdays to celebrate in which he’ll be even nominally a kid. That doesn’t seem like much.

But throughout the festivities, I kept thinking back to when he was born. People so often say that the day your children are born are the happiest days of your life. On the day Tim was born, I was grateful and ecstatic and relieved. But also, I spent the day in a hospital bed wondering if Rick and I were up to the task that lay ahead: raising a child.

Yes, I was overjoyed to hold him and to know that he had safely arrived on earth. It’s a different kind of happiness when they’re fourteen, though. Football on the beach? Fishing at dusk? Watching him pitch a (losing) double-header? That, to me, carries a lot of happiness.

Birth days are wonderful. But birthdays are pretty great too. Even though it was a safe and easy delivery, I’d have to say I enjoyed his fourteenth even more than the day on which he arrived. That particular celebration is over for another year, but we still have mint chocolate chip ice cream pie in the freezer, so I suppose there’s no reason to cut the fun short just yet. I’ll consider myself celebrating Tim’s birthday until the last bite of pie is gone.

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