A Quiet Birthday

When on the day before Beth’s birthday I told the kids one of the best presents they could get her would be to be quiet in the morning and let her sleep in, they looked at me skeptically. One of them, I don’t remember which, said it sounded more like a present for me.  I assured them that while I am more of an enforcer when it comes to sleep-related rules, Beth likes to sleep, too.  And because she gets up at 5:45 every weekday morning to rouse Noah and make sure he gets ready for school, weekend morning sleep is precious.

Skeptical or not, they were very quiet, and Beth slept until 7:30. And yes, that counts as sleeping in at our house.  Once we were both awake, I went and got the kids and June played “Happy Birthday” for Beth on the violin twice, once a cappella and once with Noah and me singing.  (There would be several repeat performances throughout the day.) Then Beth opened her cards and presents.  June’s handmade card was in the shape of a cake and Noah’s card had images of bread and chocolate printed on the front and inside. This was a hint, but her gift was not from Bread and Chocolate, as she’d guessed and as I predicted she would. But I did guess wrong that she’d miss what Noah wrote on the back of the card after I told him to sign it inside and not on the back: his signature followed by “Do you notice this? Mommy said you wouldn’t.” Beth said she knows always to check all parts of Noah’s cards.

Because I renewed her New Yorker subscription and my mom had mailed an Amazon gift certificate, and the kids’ presents were in the same box, there was only one present to open. It was from the Zingerman’s catalog.  Noah had selected a loaf of chocolate sourdough and June picked Spanish drinking chocolate.  I asked if she’d like to have either for breakfast and she said she’d like to save the drinking chocolate for a snowy day, but she’d have the bread. I heated it up and made eggs to go with it and Beth had breakfast in bed while the rest of us sat on the floor with our plates. (I wanted to minimize crumbs in the bed.)

We ate most of the small loaf. It was very good, crusty and chewy and filled with melted chocolate. Later that morning we all talked to Beth’s mom on the phone and I congratulated her on her forty-seventh anniversary of motherhood while she reminisced about Beth as a newborn.

Next Beth went for her customary Saturday morning bike ride and June and I went to the library and the bank and Noah stayed home to do homework.  After lunch, Beth went on her own errands. I finished an article about Echinacea and then June and I made Beth’s birthday cake, chocolate with coffee frosting.

When Beth came home from her errands, Beth and June and I had a little party, directed by June. (I surreptitiously called Beth and asked her to call back a few minutes before she got home so we could jump out a yell “Surprise!” because that seemed important to June and I really didn’t want to spend too long crouching by the radiator in the dining room.)

June had made paper snowflakes and taped them to the wall because Beth loves snow. While Beth was gone, June had figured out how to play “Happy Birthday” on the keyboard part of the toy piano/xylophone and she performed that.  Next, we danced a bit and then played Splash while Beth sat in a chair June had dragged upstairs from the basement and proclaimed a special birthday throne. Noah was working on his research paper and couldn’t join us, but he supplied us with the music, a Pandora 60s and 70s station. If it had been up to June, the party would have gone on longer, but what Beth really wanted was to do was to go to the bedroom and read.  This was puzzling to June, but she climbed into bed with her to read her own book, How to Train Your Dragon, which she’d checked out the library earlier that day.

Dinner was Burmese at Mandalay, which is one of Beth’s favorites.  Then we came home and ate cake and ice cream. June somehow managed to turn the discussion to her own birthday and to the question of whether or not she could have a slumber party.  I said four months before her birthday was too early to be discussing this and she said, “Four months is a short time.”

“You think five minutes is a long time,” Noah protested. A discussion of the relative nature of time ensued.

I provided the example that five minutes was a long time to be on fire, but four months would be a short time to have left to live.  Beth said these were not very cheerful examples for a birthday celebration and I pointed out I wasn’t the one who’d been discussing previous experiences of vomiting as we entered the restaurant. For the record, that was both kids. We are not always well behaved as a family, I suppose.

June went to bed soon after and the rest of Beth’s birthday was quiet, just the way she wanted. She read, I cleaned the bathroom and wrote this, and Noah continued to write his a paper. (The three of us were all up past our bedtimes because Noah was trying to get to the five-page mark of his draft and we haven’t reached the stage of parenting when you let your kid stay up later than you yet. I’m not sure I could get to sleep knowing he was still awake.)

The next day would be full of chores, errands, and possibly paid work, too. We all have a lot to do. Sara has a lot of work for me in the next few days. The rough draft of Noah’s paper is due Wednesday. And we’re driving to Wheeling for Thanksgiving with Beth’s mom and aunts and other relatives on Thursday morning so we needed to grocery shop and make sweet potatoes, mushroom gravy, and cranberry sauce to take with us. It was nice, though, to carve out a little time on Saturday for the first of our late November celebrations. We have much to celebrate, and the fact that Beth was born is a good place to start.