I am one of those people who loves birthdays. I joke with Will that he'll never be able to forget my birthday since I remind him constantly as it approaches. And at the close of my actual birth-day, just before closing our eyes for sleep, I'll gently whisper, "only 364 more days...."
This year challenged my usual heady revelry with what we are now referring to as 'the great birthday illness of 2011'. For the past 4 weeks at least one - usually multiple - members of our family have graciously been trading viruses and bacteria back and forth in a stunning, exasperating, show of runny noses, coughs, sneezes, fevers, infections and all other sorts of unpleasantries that need not be named. Not a single one of us has been spared. And usually just as it seems we may be on the tail end of the ordeal, some new symptom shows its face and we begin again. Really, we are all sick of being sick.
So, I must admit, that while the mama in me carried on as best she could, caring for those things and people that needed caring for, the child in me stamped her feet and sulked "no, no, no! This is my BIRTHDAY! We need to celebrate with a weekend full of family fun, special meals and all things wonderful that I associate with birthdays!" It challenged what I think of as a happy birthday, and I was sorely losing the battle against my sour mood and disappointment. My sweet husband was trying so hard to step up to my birthday expectations despite being laid out on the couch swaddled in his favorite blanket. And then, when it seemed we all might actually make it out for a special birthday dinner, little Ava woke from her nap wailing anew with a bit of a fever and a whole new set of symptoms.
I think at that point I gave in, my inner toddler retreating to make way for a mama's persistent empathy. As we finished eating our simple dinner and collectively blew out the candles on our cupcakes that my poor sick husband had driven all over town to find (who knew bakeries were all closed on Mondays?), I looked around at our little family and did feel a sense that it had been a good birthday. We were certainly not all feeling our best, but our love for each other shone through with the ways that we cared for each other and kept each other going in our time of not feeling well.
It reminds me of our last anniversary before Ava was born. Will and I took a trip to Chicago for a friend's wedding that happened to coincide with our anniversary weekend. We were about 8 months pregnant with Ava and knew that this would be one of our last evenings together as a couple free of the overwhelming responsibilities of parenthood. Our final night of the trip we had planned a lovely dinner at a fancy restaurant and had gotten all dressed and ready to go when one of us started feeling very poorly. It became clear that a night around town was not in the cards for us, and we decided to hole up in our hotel room, order room service, watch our wedding video for the first time and eat frozen leftover wedding cake (which was actually quite good a year later) in bed. Despite us both not feeling wholly well, it was really a perfect evening.
We all know that life does not go as planned. And it is just when our expectations start to balloon that we are set up for the most stunning disappointments. But, really, the most important things are quite simple, and having a special birthday requires not much more than being with those you love - even if they are a bit under the weather.
Will's birthday card to me this year was simple and poignant. Among his words were these: "The most important thing is that we are together as a family." Thank you Will and the rest of my family and dear ones for making me feel very loved and making my birthday a special one. I love and cherish you all.