Noah poked his head into our room about 7:15 on Beth’s birthday. “I took the red sock off and put a green sock on,” he said. “Pretty smart, huh?”
Noah is allowed to wake us at 7:10 on weekends. (The weekday time is 6:30.) The problem with this system is that he almost always forgets it’s a weekend on Saturday mornings and often on Sundays as well. I’d put a red sock of his on our doorknob the night before and explained to him that it was a stop sign to remind him to stop and think if it was time to come in yet. So, of course, before he came in, he needed to replace it with a green sock. He’s like that.
Since it was 7:15 when he came in, Beth’s first birthday present was five minutes extra sleep. Or it might have been more like ten because she appeared to sleep through our conversation about how he thought it would be fun to hide her presents. I don’t think she was faking it either. Noah ran off to hide his present and I slid my card under her pillow. When he came over to her side of the bed and woke her, she looked convincingly disoriented.
Soon Noah was leading her through the house, telling her when she was cold, warm or hot. Once she’d found his present, she came back into the bedroom and sat down on the bed near her pillow. “You couldn’t get much hotter,” I said.
“Thank you,” she grinned. I smiled back. And she reached under the pillow and retrieved the card.
Beth opened her presents. Noah had gotten her a twenty-five dollar gift certificate for iTunes. I gave him fifteen dollars to buy a present and he chipped in ten dollars of his own money, which I thought was pretty generous given that his allowance is two dollars a week. I’d renewed a magazine subscription for two years and Andrea had sent socks and shirts.
I made pancakes for breakfast. Since I cook dinner five nights a week, weekend breakfasts are usually Beth’s province. After we ate, we settled into a fairly normal Sunday routine. Beth went grocery shopping while I cleaned house. Later she did nursery school committee work, ran Noah over to Sasha’s house and raked some leaves. June made one of the piles into a nest and pretended to be a bird in it. I made the long-delayed pumpkin tureen soup.
Over the course of the day, my mom, Beth’s mom and Beth’s brother all called to wish her a happy birthday. Johnny had bad news. His wife Abby has lost her job at EMS (http://www.ems.com), due to the downturn in the economy. Beth’s mom actually called at least twice to discuss some other heavy family matters. I listened to Beth offer sympathy and advice. Beth is the kind of person other people rely on–me, the kids, her family, her colleagues at work, the other parents at nursery school. I often grumble (in my head, to myself mostly) that as a stay-at-home mom, I never get a break, but it’s just as true of her.
On Veteran’s day, Beth had the day off work and Noah did not have it off school, so we spent the morning watching 42 Up, the fifth in the British documentary series about the lives of a group of people who have been tracked every seven years since they were seven years old. I asked her if she chose this film because she was about to turn forty-two. She said no–it was a coincidence. Then I asked if she could identify with the stage in life in which the subjects find themselves. She said she hadn’t thought about it much. (Okay, so much for calling her birthday entry “42 Up,” I thought. Sometimes my loved ones refuse to be convenient blog-fodder.) Then she turned the question back on me. Did I? Yes and no, I said. Most of them had kids older than ours and a lot of them had already lost parents so in some ways they seemed older than us, but I did notice that the film series’ initial focus on social class seemed to have attenuated somewhat over time as the subjects’ stories became more centered around their home and family lives. That’s certainly where our focus is these days.
After dinner, I asked Beth if she wanted her cake right away or at the kids’ before bed snack-time. She said right away. I thought that was a good idea. We’d be less likely to be rushed that way. I got out the ice cream, stuck the numeral four and two candles in the cake and lit them. The cake was a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and peanut butter filling. I got it from Cake Love (http://www.cakelove.com/), a fancy bakery in Silver Spring. Beth got me a Cake Love cake for my birthday after I had June, to celebrate my release from gestational diabetes. She also got one for her mother one year when Andrea came to visit us on her birthday, but she’d never had one herself. I thought it was about time.
I picked the cake up on Friday night after supper at zPizza. As I walked back through the pedestrian mall to rejoin Beth and the kids, balancing the cake box and sipping a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream dusted with nutmeg, a light snow fell. Beth loves snow. I often view it with suspicion, as our school district plays pretty fast and loose with the snow days. In that moment, though, I silently hoped for a snowy winter.
Beth blew out the candles on the cake and Noah and I sang “Happy Birthday.” June loves the birthday song and her face lit up when we began to sing, although she did not sing along. Once she’d finished her cake and ice cream, she said, “Next time I will sing it.” We all assumed she meant the next time we were eating birthday cake, but after I got her out of the high chair she began to belt it out.
The kids were asleep by 8:45. Beth went back to the computer to work on nursery school tasks. I emptied the dishwasher, put away the dinner dishes and was in bed by 9:30. It would be almost two hours before Beth joined me.
Happy birthday, dear Beth. It was an ordinary Sunday in many ways, full of chores and responsibilities. But you are an extraordinary woman. I love you now and always.