March 25, 2011
Happy Birthday to Me
“Where are your presents, Mommy?” my four-year-old inquires with breathless anticipation, because he’s been waiting for this moment ALL DAY, and he’d better get his fix. It’s my forty-fourth birthday (yup, I’m well into the mid-life years, out and proud), and my youngest knows this means gifts will be served to me after a meal I thankfully did not make, and pre-consumption of the deliciously rich chocolate cake I mercifully did not attempt to bake myself either. Birthdays, (particularly my own, a tradition since childhood), are a month-long celebration in this household, and since I’ve been discussing mine for the better part of two weeks, Zach is excited by all the hype. He knows his father purchased “thanks for being born” accoutrement both for he and Justin to bestow upon me, and for my husband to shower upon me as well, and he can’t wait until the big hurrah.
By the look on Zach’s face, I’m hoping his father did a REALLY good job shopping this year.
In no time at all our dinners are consumed (Justin heartily prefers to pick from my plate, and although I’m happy to share, if I want a full meal I need to eat fast), gifts and cards opened and savored (Jeff came through), envelopes and decimated scraps of brightly festive paper quickly creating a faux carpet around us. It’s time for the highly anticipated denouement of the evening, the accapella tune that my youngest is known to sing around the house in hopes it will usher in his own day of birth that much sooner. Zach is happily immersed in all of the pomp and ceremony, from assisting my husband in procuring our lone candle which has been relegated to the back of a cluttered drawer since my last holy celebration, to begging his Daddy to light this illuminata (said request was adamantly thwarted).
We are moments from igniting our two-inch torch when the synapses in my brain thankfully kick in, and I remember that Justin’s school has sent home his new iPad today, customized through the diligent work of his speech teachers solely for him. He grinned at me when I freed the slight black square from where it was carefully nestled in my son’s backpack, was gleeful when I turned it on and he requested potty, snack, and juice in rapid succession. I was particularly delighted with myself both for remembering how to turn it on, and for being able to locate Justin’s most precious app, Proloquo2go.
As my son proceeded through his post-school pee, I quickly surfed through the myriad screens his dedicated staff members had contrived for him. I reminded myself that his asking for specific activities, his ability to express emotions, hell, his desire to receive a hug, no longer required the complicated machinations of his prior augmentative device. He could simply touch a screen, deftly maneuver the tips of his fingers over a myriad of buttons, and allow them to speak for him.
And because of this technology, during the traditional rite of passage most families engage in automatically, this year my eldest boy could finally wish me a “happy birthday” too.
I raced to the family room for the machine, activated it, and searched for the “holiday” button I was certain existed within the multitude of lettered grids. After a false start or two (I’m sure Justin would have found it immediately) I located it, pressed down upon the cool square promising celebration, and was rewarded with a child’s voice exclaiming the words to me. I walked over to my eldest, brimming with anticipation to show him.
I knelt down, and gently turned his face toward mine so I could garner his full attention. “It’s Mommy’s birthday, Justin”, I said quietly, “and you can participate in the song this year just by pushing the ‘Happy Birthday’ button right here.” He smiled at me sweetly as I made certain he’d seen the icon, and I reluctantly disengaged my fingers from his face, not sure how much he’d comprehended of what I’d just shared. My husband slid over and hovered behind him, waiting to gently prompt him if necessary. As I dimmed the lights, two voices, one in particular for which I am forever grateful, entwined in tune to sing to me. At the end of the last chorus, the crescendo of “dear Mommy” distinctly relegated to the past, my eldest pushed a button with a smile engulfing his entire face, and participated fully in our first all-family birthday song.
And as I huffed and I puffed for dramatic effect for my youngest who appreciates the effort, our candle’s tiny flame was extinguished, wishes sailing out to what for this family has been lately a far gentler, and far more benevolent, universe. In keeping with tradition I won’t tell you what those wishes were, although I wouldn’t be surprised if you guessed. I can tell you for certain, in that specific moment, that one of them had already come true.
Happy Birthday to me.