Aah, August. Hot, sticky, sunny, buggy—what’s not to love? The thing is, my older daughter’s birthday is in August, so for that reason—and that reason only, friends—it’s one of my favorite times of the year.
We recently celebrated Grace’s ninth birthday. Nine. It went fast, just like everybody said it would.
Occasionally, everybody is right.
Our original birthday celebration plan, to be at the beach, was canceled (here’s looking at you, COVID-19). Thus, Grace and I (with an assist from Anna, per usual) developed a Plan B: to celebrate by dropping off birthday treats and goodie bags at friends’ homes. I didn’t want to be in the car all day, so I asked Grace to pick just a few buddies.
Next, we noodled over a theme for the goodie bags. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before: My daughters love party themes. Their final answer was…ice cream. Yum.
I ordered pink goodie bags depicting ice cream cones, lollipops, doughnuts, cupcakes, slices of cake—all sorts of cavity-inducing heaven. Then we needed to fill the goodie bags. A quick search revealed that ice cream-shaped erasers were in stock. Perfect; “Add to Cart.”
We also found a multipack of a mini activity book entitled “Sweets!” I can’t resist a book with an exclamation point in its title—”Add to Cart,” along with a multipack of Play-Doh. Because everybody loves Play-Doh, as Grace noted.
The girls and I agreed that it wouldn’t work to give actual ice cream as the birthday treat, so we settled on sugar cookies with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles.
Before lunchtime on Grace’s birthday, the girls and I packed the goodie bags into the car (leaving Stanton behind to make bacon cheeseburgers). We stopped by everyone’s houses. Beforehand, I had said not to worry about presents, that simply seeing friends would be a huge gift—but still, folks surprised Grace with incredibly thoughtful signs, balloons and gifts.
All these kindnesses moved me, and Grace. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” we said.
This was her sweetest birthday, Grace and I agreed afterward. Sweet, with exclamation points to infinity.
Perfect; “Add to Cart.”
The next day, Grace called my mom. Grace wanted to thank her for the birthday present she had sent. I was in another room, but I overheard Grace’s end of the conversation and could tell she was answering questions my mom was asking: the goodie bags, her friends, the whole day.
Then I heard Grace pause and say, “What I mostly wanted to say was, thank you very much.”
I poked my head into the room. Grace looked over at me; I patted my heart. Grace smiled.
Sometimes, things strike you. However you feel comfortable describing it—touch your heart, move you, wake you up—I think you know what I mean, and I’m sure you know it when it happens to you.
“What I mostly wanted to say was, thank you very much.”
My grandmother’s birthday falls earlier in the summer. Like many nursing homes, the one she’s at doesn’t allow visitors, so I didn’t see her on her birthday. That day, I called her room, but nobody answered.
I left a message. I don’t remember exactly everything I said, but I know I talked loudly so that Grandma could hear me. I also know, in the beginning, I said, “Hey, Grandma, it’s Melissa—Happy Birthday, I love you!”
I repeated that at the end, too: “I love you!”
I tried to make my voice sound happy, with an exclamation point and everything, but my voice broke at the end. I had started to cry because I didn’t know (and still don’t know) when I’ll see my Grandma again.
But I wanted to say, “I love you.” It was what I mostly wanted to say, so I said it twice, at the beginning and end.
Funny how the critical messages we want to leave with people, the words we feel compelled to convey, are some of the simplest, most common expressions in languages around the world.
Thank you. I love you. Hey, it’s me!
…so I said it twice, at the beginning and end.
I’m a spiritual person, but a lazy one. I feel badly about that, but like some other things I feel badly about…I don’t actually do anything about it. Maybe one day.
The night of Grace’s birthday, and the night after, I lay down with my daughters before they went to sleep. I often do this, squished in between them in Grace’s bed. Since the pandemic, they’ve been having regular sleepovers.
I lay there, the ceiling fan whirring overheard, the night light glowing near the dresser. I try to treat the girls equally, no favoritism, so I put my left hand on Grace’s leg (she was on my left) and my right hand on Anna’s.
The night of Grace’s birthday, Grace told me she loved the day. “Thanks, Mom.”
“No worries,” I replied.
The next night, after having a quiet day to take a breath and recover from the goodie bag deliveries and last-minute present wrapping, I lay there again. And I lay there longer than usual, reflecting on how time just keeps moving and just so appreciating, in that moment, being cozy with my daughters, the most precious parts of my life (even when they drive me crazy, even when life is crazy). I patted Grace’s leg, and squeezed Anna’s hand.
Through the dark, Anna whispered, “I love you.” It’s a beautiful thing for a child to say, unprompted.
It was another of those wake you up/move you/touch your heart moments. “I love you too,” I whispered back.
I closed my eyes. I felt a tear roll down my face. I felt love.
I wanted to say a little prayer, but it had been a long time since I’d prayed.
I know only a handful of prayers by heart, and I’m not much for formal theology anyway. I tried, though. I kept my eyes closed, still holding my girls.
What I mostly wanted to say was, thank you very much.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books on Amazon.com. Short fiction and creative nonfiction writing that’s engaging, witty and from the heart.