Well, the year is coming to a close and it’s the time for bittersweet reflection on the past and a hopeful eye turned toward the future. We sat around the table this evening and listed all of the things we enjoyed and learned about last year and all of the things we were looking forward to doing in the next. Andrea quizzed each of the children in turn, and they responded while wiping greasy fists across mouths overstuffed with pizza.
“I don’t know…” Clara said when asked what she enjoyed about the past year. “It all feels like so long ago.”
“Oh, surely you can think of something,” her mother prodded. “Maybe your birthday? It was your golden birthday. Remember?”
“Yeah,” I joined in. “You had a sleepover, and everything was decorated with gold. And I went broke paying for all of it.”
She shrugged. “It was okay.” One side of her mouth curled into a reluctant smile. “It wasn’t my best birthday ever.”
I frowned at Andrea and then leaned towards the little girl. “Well, it WAS a Wednesday. You really can’t expect much from a Wednesday birthday…” I took a breath and sighed. “Anyway, you haven’t had that many other birthdays. What could have possibly been better than this year’s?”
“Well,” she brightened somewhat. “I can remember a lot of better birthdays. Like, there was my bowling birthday-”
“That was a half hour and cost us $60…”
She nodded, “Right. And there was my rainbow birthday.”
“Okay, and that one was when you were like, four years old. I doubt you remember anything other than the ribbons over the window.”
“Oh!” she jumped in her seat. “And then there was the one where we got pulled over by the policeman!”
I groaned and threw my hands in the air. “I can’t believe it Andrea. We really messed up this time. We didn’t even beat the birthday where we were pulled over by the police.”
It was a good reminder that sometimes children see things very differently than their parents. And their priorities and desires are never the same. But I’m determined to learn from the past. This year, I will make my daughter’s 9th birthday the best one yet. I already have it all planned out. No cake. No decorations. No expensive presents or friends watching movies in the basement. Just a little girl, and her Daddy, alone on the highway, Sunroof open to the wind, radio blasting, a long line of police cars racing to keep up with us as we swerve recklessly in and out of traffic. We are dodging spike strips. Screaming into the night. “You’ll never take us alive, Copper!” I can already see the smile on my daughter’s face, flashing red, flashing blue, flashing red, flashing blue. “Thank you, Daddy,” she will say. “This is a birthday I will never ever forget.” I’ll reach back and hold her hand for a second, and then let go so I can pull the handbrake as we skid sideways through an intersection.