happy birthday, big friend
Dear Big Friend,
Little Friend and I will dash to the store in a few minutes in search of the perfect present for you. Little Friend is admanant about the perfect gift: rubber snakes and a magnifying glass. These things are dear to her heart. We know you’ll love them, too. Like father, like daughter.
Over a birthday breakfast this morning, you informed me that you celebrated the calendar page turning over on a new year alone and cold in the wee hours of the morning. After sleepwalking to the attic and laying down in the frigid guest suite, you slept for a stretch, leeching body heat into the winter night’s bottomless need for warmth, until you woke up enough to realize it was 2:15 am and a warm, soft bed awaited you downstairs in your very own bedroom.
What does it mean to start a new year of life in this manner? I wonder.
You redeemed the day at breakfast when Little Friend insisted you open a present while she crooned “Happy Birthday” over a plate of eggs and bacon. The untidily wrapped box revealed the perfect gift from thoughtful, dear friends: a box of Fruit Loops. It’s big, sugary, red, and all your own. Minus the small bowl demanded be shared with Little Friend. After you left for work, she tilted her bowl bottoms-up and slurped every last sip of cereal milk. Like father, like daughter.
I don’t find it easy to plan an adult’s birthday party. With maturity, we seem to shed the thrills and joys of simple things: balloons, candles, songs, silly hats, pony rides. It’s easier to fete a little person. But it’s no less important to fete a big person.
I want to celebrate your endless stream of energy, your ability to drive a hard bargain past procrastination to do the things first that you dread the most, your way of hanging adoringly to every syllable uttered by Little Friend’s mouth, your dedication to me and this life we’re charting a course through together. I want to celebrate your quirky love of knowledge (and subsequent quizzes on Gordian knots, as failed by yours truly), your twelve-year-old-boy sense of humor (that gets you giggling over a birthday card with a corny pun about pigs in construction clamps), your consternation over why anyone would ever own a home phone.
But I fall short.
Somehow, I spend a week thinking your birthday is Tuesday instead of Monday. I forget to unearth the “Happy Birthday” sign from storage. I neglect shopping for rubber snakes and magnifying glasses until the day of. I fall short of the celebration you deserve.
Normally, I would just blame my all-too apparent inadequacies and work harder next time. But I’m hitting my pause button today. I’m going to stop the self-flagellation for a minute, because I think I’m onto something here: maybe as we grow older, we get bigger, and better, and greater, and so much harder to celebrate fully in a single day. Maybe we outgrow the balloons, candles, songs, silly hats, and pony rides in greatness, not in years. Maybe this is how God sees us: so amazingly, wonderfully, and perfectly made that we’re worth remembering and celebrating not on a single day of the year but actually worth dying for–redeeming a life for–each and every day.
If I’m right, then Happy Birthday are too teeny-tiny of words to express how grateful I am you are in my life. Today, and every day.
Then again, considering your excitement over Little Friend’s “Happy Birthday” karaoke, a cheesy card, and a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal, maybe we don’t grow up all that much after all. Just give me a day to arrange the silly hats and pony rides. I’m still thinking your birthday’s tomorrow…
I love you,