Today is October 24, and this post is dedicated to our youngest daughter, because it’s her birthday. Today’s Saturday post will replace my regular Sunday snapshot memories this week so that Hubby and I can wish her a special and happy birthday in spite of the miles between NYC where she lives and SLC where we are today.
Vim, the number of years, or how old you’ll turn today, don’t matter; what does is that the lives of our whole family–your father, older sister, and myself when you were born; now those of Ben, Frank, Thomas and little Vimmy who enlarged our family over the years–have been significantly enriched because of your thoughtfulness as well as your inimitable and irreplaceable wit and style.
All the years both you girls were growing up, birthdays were special, just as they are today even though we’re miles apart. All those years ago, on your birthday the focus was on you, the STAR of the family for the day. You got to choose the dinner menu and then you opened your present. More times than not in the earlier years, that menu would have included pizza. As the years went by and your palate grew more discerning, your menus grew more sophisticated. What never varied, however, was dessert. It was always a home made birthday cake, sometimes with ice cream, sometimes not, and it was always decorated in a theme to reflect whatever was going on in your world at the time, be it a new book you”d discovered or a new sport you were into.
Now that we’re not close enough together by distance to keep up the old birthday cake tradition, we’re digging up some old pictures of cakes from birthdays gone by in hopes you and Ben will enjoy the memories they bring.
Remember this one? I think you were around three or four (looks like four candle places) and your sister looks about eight or nine. That would make me hummmmmm? (What I realize now, looking at this picture, is not only how young I was–about 38–but how horrible my color scheme was those years. I can see I hadn’t reached my maturity in decorating style. Whatever possessed me to paint the room that dastardly pumpkin? I know why I chose the wallpaper though–it was cheeeeeeeeep!)
You weren’t in school yet, but both of you very much into horses, and hobby horses were easy to draw and the color scheme for the cake at least was simple, and good. You would have been in Montessori School had we not moved to Ohio from Connecticut, and because we moved too late (in May) to get you registered in a good pre-school program for September, we gave you a tape recorder that year. It may have seemed a questionable choice for such a young child, but you were already showing your creative streak and used that recorder to tape many “radio” programs with both music and drama. If I could get the tapes transferred to CD, they would be priceless to all of us now.
Here you are a couple of years later, after you’d started school. Isn’t this the year you discovered Emmit the chipmunk (or was it beaver) and Emily? What was the book those characters came from? I think this cake was the result of my trying to duplicate their little home in the forest. I believe I count six candles.
And then, before we knew it, you were seven! You were into the preppy look already with your navy pullover layered over a white knit shirt. You were beginning to have regular hair trims that made your baby fine hair (like mine) look thicker, ever since that horrible day a year before when you and Julie from across the street butchered your bangs in the basement on the very day we were planning to see old friends from Connecticut. On reflection, I know they could see your natural beauty in spite of the bad haircut.
Finally we’ve reached what I see by the number of candles visible, birthday number eight. The cake design came from a book you were reading that year about dragons. I don’t remember much about it other than the cover from which this design was copied. Do you know what it was?
Your school was a trendsetter for liberature-based teaching, and I drove you 9 miles each way to school for five years because I thought that your imagination and story telling gifts would be more nourished there than the country school near our home. I’ve never been sorry and know that it was all worth it. Look at you now, an English PhD–teaching Shakespeare and Renaissance English at a private University in New York–publishing in prestigious journals. Though you missed out on a Montessori beginning as we were able to provide your sister, you did okay!
I’m not exactly sure, but I think it was around this time that you disclosed to me that you didn’t ever want to grow up. You wanted to stay Pop’s and my little girl for the rest of your life.
I don’t know exactly what I answered you, but something on the order that, yes, growing up means taking on responsibility and learning to take care of yourself, but that what age took away in privilege , it gave back tenfold in feeling competent and good about yourself. I hoped you understood that you could do or be anything you wanted in life just as well as a boy could, as we were well into the womens movement that was beginning to change attitudes about what girls could achieve. When you were all grown up, I remember telling you, you’d be able to decide how you wanted things in your life to be and pursue whatever dreams you wanted. As a child there was always someone you needed permission from, even though as parents, we hoped we were guiding you well, and only saying no when no was the right answer. As an adult responsible and answerable to no one by yourself–even though it seemed a daunting thought at the time (I’m sure I didn’t use that word)–being your own person would be worth growing up someday.
So there you are. Although we can’t make this birthday special by being there, or giving you flowers or a real homemade and decorated cake, or a wrapped present, we hope you like this “virtual”, not one, but four birthday cakes and happy times remembered here. Happy birthday across the miles and years.