In exactly one week, my baby boy will be four years old. Excuse me for a second while I take a very deep and shaky breath…
Oh. Okay. Ahem. I’m good. Lump in throat successfully swallowed. For now.
Birthdays do something crazy to me. In the days leading up to them, I grow all kinds of sentimental, entering a kind of dreamlike fog where I slowly peruse the catalogue of not only my childrens’ physical growth and changes, but all of the things we have done as a family, as well as the many changes that have taken place in me and the inward growth I’ve experienced. (I dare not catalogue MY physical growth. As far as I am concerned, I still look like I did in college, no need to investigate, case closed.) I spend days before their birthday parties marveling over the differences that occur in just a year’s time. Used to, a year’s passing just meant I stepped up another grade in school. Now, however, it means my baby has gone from prone to running, from completely toothless to eating Chicken McNuggets, from the nursery to a real Sunday School class, or, in Gideon’s case, from toddler to little boy. Big deals, you know? The kind that result in golf-ball sized throat lumps…
And so the birthday parties that result from my introspection are not ways to show off to Gideon’s friends and their parents that we are really something and that we know how to throw a shindig; they are just the most natural expression of a mother’s heart about to BURST through the ceiling with love and sentiment.
For his first birthday, I spent days…no, make that weeks…preparing for our little family party. I handcrafted invitations featuring Gideon’s picture and a poem I wrote for him, I made a birthday banner out of wooden letters, painting each one and covering the front with fabric before attaching it to a ric rac ribbon, I handstamped goody bags for each guest filled with homemade granola, cookies, and a bookmark listing our prayer requests for Gideon, I made a slideshow of his first year, I burned a CD of all of our favorite vintage childrens’ songs, I poured over his gift list, hand-picking the little presents that I thought would best convey to him how much I loved him, and I tweaked and re-tweaked the menu of miniature foods ~ baby hamburgers, chicken bits, little tiny cups of french fries, miniature cupcakes and little bitty star-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You would have thought Martha Stewart herself was coming had you watched my painstaking preparations. But no, the guest list was really just me and Papa, Grandmother and Granddaddy, Grandpa and Grandma, and three sets of aunts and uncles.
Here is what I recorded in my journal (the REAL Mrs. Gore’s Diary) the night before our big day:
What is tomorrow? My son’s first birthday! I am officially atwitter and now know some of what my Mom feels on my special days of celebration ~ I am all set to pamper my little one with attention and hours of play and all sorts of special foods and gifts. He will little note any of the things I do on this first birthday and he certainly won’t remember, but he will feel loved; I am sure of that.
He is such a little scamp, so full of wonder ~ he still carries a mean temper in his pocket and pulls it out on some occasions (usually changing time and bedtime) but for the most part is absolutely sweet. He has the most ready smile and he studies everything with his eyes ~ they are so watchful; even as he laughs at me as I play with him, his blue eyes are active, taking it all and putting it somewhere in that little mind of his. He can walk now and can say many words, mostly ones that start with “B”. And he is quite enamored with any kind of ball and points out anything round and says “Ba!” at least 20 times a day.
I can’t help but think about where I was this time last year (1:00 a.m.) ~ in a dark, cozy hospital room, waiting for my body to finish labor so I might meet this new love of mine. It was one of the best days of my life and I hope I can always so vividly recall it as I do now. Every minute of it is painfully dear to me and I wish I could describe how I feel when I remember it. Just so absolutely fulfilled.
Thank you God for my precious Gideon ~ may we all have a lifetime to share together, and may we always love each other as we do now. I am so blessed and so happy.
And then dawned the day of his first birthday. I hovered around him, constantly tamping down the desire to cup his face with my hands and just gaze at his one-year-oldness, saying “Happy Birthday!!!” and clapping about every five minutes, finding every excuse possible to sing the Birthday song and blow out another candle…I was beside myself. It is still one of the most distinctive days in my mind’s collection of lovely memories, a day that I love to revisit. I am glad to fill this house up with little ones – they are exhausting to be sure, but they’re also some kind of addictive – but that first year of Gideon’s life was also my first year of Motherhood, and the depth of feeling and growth I experienced leading up to his premiere birthday is so tangible I feel like I could almost reach out and grab it.
Because we lived with my parents, I had the leisure time to truly spend the entire day with the birthday boy, saving the birthday party work until his naptime. We watched Little Bear, we played toys, we went outside, we ate his favorite foods together, and I realized that day that birthdays are not just about pictures and presents and a cake. They are days for celebrating your greatest blessings, for reflecting on what you as a family have been through together, for saying all day in your heart “God, I do not take for granted this person that you have crafted for me. THANK YOU.” And so I’ve made it my goal to spend every waking minute of my children’s birthdays celebrating. Mrs. Gore is completely cast aside on those days, and the struggle to juggle meeting everyone’s needs with the self-centered pursuits I’d like to take part in is completely thrown out the window as I become the birthday child’s shadow, a giant walking party horn just waiting for another opportunity to honk my most heartfelt birthday wishes and throw a handful of confetti in their face.
The actual party was wonderful. The presents, the rainbow-assortment of helium-filled balloons, the festive treats…they all seemed to shout what my heart was proclaiming to my son: “This is your day! You are loved and worth celebrating!!” And as my husband and I laid in bed with our greatest treasure that night, giving him his last gift of a sleepover in our bedroom, I knew that my day with Gideon would forever be branded in my memory.
The day after his party, I wrote the following in my journal:
The birthday party was a success, in that our family gathered together and sweetly celebrated the life of Gideon Michael Gore. I find it so very difficult to rest in my gratitude for having just this first healthy and happy year with him without then desperately begging God for more of the same. Oh to be naturally content!
Indeed. For here I am, three years later, torn mightily between thanking God for giving us four years with him while desperately pleading for many, many more…
There are more birthday memories to be shared this week, but for now, I think I’ll call it a night and drift off to sleep with this memory that sits so still and so sweet in my mind’s eye as my companion. It was Gideon’s very first birthday party, but it was also mine…and it is sure to bring me the sweetest dreams tonight. Right after I finish sobbing.