Tomorrow is The Boy’s birthday. Tonight we drove the eight miles to our friendly neighborhood Gamestop (where they know us very, very well), and The Boy pointed out the games he wanted. He thought he was doing that so I could choose a game he’d like. Ha! Little did he know that I would be buying all of them! And a cool light-up Wii controller! And I did it while speaking Whale to the clerk. And we demonstrated what we thought our last words would be as we went to our eternal reward. We left the store secure in the knowledge that a) the clerk would remember us, and b) we would be long gone before the nice men with the strait jackets arrived.
On the way home we sang. Opera. Loudly. With full vibrato. And then we sang “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” also with full vibrato. And then I spoke Whale a bit more until The Boy suggested that I didn’t speak it as well as I thought I did. I responded (still in Whale) that I spoke it fluently. And then we laughed so hard I almost hit somebody who was crossing the street against the light.
That sobered us up a bit (me, at least–The Boy went on to sing “Arabian Nights,” and to do a creditable job of it, too, even the accent). We went out to dinner and spoke Whale some more, until The Boy noted that other diners could see my face (speaking Whale correctly involves the sort of contortions that generally mean one suffers from a degenerative muscular disorder), so I stopped, and ordered thirteen pizzas instead.
Because that’s part of the birthday this year–The Boy is skiving off school tomorrow, going to brunch with his grandma and me, and then bowling with his friends at Step Ahead, and then we’re going to show up at the football practice field with a cooler full of sodas, just in time to meet the pizza delivery guy and suck up all the glory as the football team partakes. It’s going to be a good day. And then Friday night The Boy’s having some friends over, and they’ll play games and eat junk food and we’ll pile into the car and go to the drive in and eat more junk and watch a double feature. And then in the morning I’ll make them sausages and eggs and french toast, and they’ll watch TV, and that’ll be another good day.
So why all the hilarity and giddiness? Well, The Boy explained by saying, “¡It’s my quinceñera!” But that’s not it. Not really. I think it’s actually a combination of things. For one thing, the last several years The Boy’s birthday has happened in a disaster zone. The year he turned ten we were loading up a dumpster and moving out of our moldy house. The year he turned eleven we had just discovered a broken water pipe under our new house. The year he turned twelve we were literally on the way out the door to take care of my sister’s kids while she had surgery. The year he turned thirteen we were in the throes of trying to get the house refinanced and fending off savage credit card companies. The year he turned fourteen we were in the middle of a bankruptcy. The poor kid just couldn’t seem to catch a break.
Until this year. The bankruptcy is over. Business is good. My clients are paid up. The weather is perfect. The football team’s doing well. The Boy is doing well in school. And today, as I sat by the football practice field and watched the team prance back and forth (“It’s HIGH KNEES, Mom! It’s NOT PRANCING!” says The Boy every time I mention that that’s my favorite part of practice. “It’s PRANCING,” I say mulishly, because it is, and I love it–fifty boys in grubby jerseys, knee pants, cleats, shoulder pads, and helmets, prancing back and forth like high-spirited horses). It rained last night and the air was clean and the late-afternoon sun caught the leaves flickering in the cool breeze, and everywhere there was the golden glow that we only get in late afternoons in late summer.
And suddenly everything just slid into place. I thought of my life fifteen years ago, and the three wonderful men who shared an office with me–and who gave me a baby shower, and made sure I got walks and naps each day, and arranged my schedule so I could work from home three days a week after The Boy was born, and continued to send me work even after my life fell apart and I had to move in with my brother. I picked up the phone, called them, and said, “Thank you. You guys were really there for me, and you have no idea what that meant.”
“Oh, we’re still here,” said the one I had on the phone at the time. “Just let me know when you’re ready to have your next baby. I’ll be ready, too.” Because we are old, old friends I just let the unfortunate phrasing slide, though I did spare a passing thought for what his office mates might think of his end of the conversation.
I thought of how our life has changed since we moved to this small, crazy town. We’ve learned tolerance. We’ve learned to slow down. We’ve found friends–so many friends. We’ve learned to cope with challenges (I’m typing this with one large black cat walking across my keyboard and the other sitting directly between me and my computer monitor, staring deep into my eyes). We’ve learned to laugh. We have a little money in the bank. We’re happy. Happy enough that this year, I can give The Boy a gift I haven’t been able to give him for a long time–a mother with time, nerve, and happiness enough in her heart to speak Whale for him. In Public. Happy Birthday, son. I love you.