Saturday, February 25, 2012

Birthday season

Helen, who is nearly three and a half, has been somewhat obsessed over the last few weeks with talking about when people's birthdays are. She was asking over and over again when each person's birthday is, but for the last week or so, she's just been informing us over and over again, although usually just of the month, not the day. We've gotten a few really funny conversations out of this, too, such as last week when she proudly informed Jörn that her birthday is "in September thith." Jörn said, "Ja, das weiss ich." ("Yes, I know.") I then added, "You know why Papa knows? Because he was there!" Helen opened her already very big eyes even wider and said, "Oh!" And then I said, "You know what? I was there, too!" To which, with EVEN wider eyes, Helen said, "Wow! That was very nice of you, Mommy!" Just for the record, yes, we HAVE explained that she grew inside of me, and also that a birthday is remembering the day that the baby came out, but it still seemed quite a revelation to her that her parents were present at her birth.

So. The children's birthdays are all fairly close together, with three in June, one in July, and two in September. We've had a sort of policy for quite awhile now that we don't start planning anyone's birthday party until the previous birthday is over with. I think we might have to relax on that a little bit in June, though, as there are eight days between the first two birthdays and then ten more days to the third one. This "policy" doesn't, by any means, stop any of the children from talking about what they want for their birthday, what they want to do, what they want to eat, what the cake should be, etc. Katie's the main one doing this all the time, in fact, she started planning her seventh birthday BEFORE her sixth birthday last year, because not everything she was planning would fit in one birthday. But it does mean that I don't have to commit to anything. I don't know what we're doing to celebrate her birthday this year, but it's a good guess that her party won't be on the day, as she will be spending the day in an airplane. (Along with Helen, Elisabeth, and me--just the four of us are going to Germany for a week, but that's another topic.) But I am NOT planning it until Lukas's birthday, which is a full 33 days earlier, is over with!

Since Katie talks about it a LOT, we remind her fairly often that there are other birthdays to get through first, and I suspect that it's because she recites them so often that Helen has gotten interested. "First Mommy's, and then Papa's, then Jacob's, Elisabeth's, and Lukas's, and then MINE! And then Helen's and Marie's. And then Christmas and then we start over!" Every time she says that, I just agree with her and leave it at that, but every time she says it, I'm thinking inside that no, my birthday is NOT the first birthday of the year.

The first birthday of the year in our family is today, but it's one of those birthdays that nobody celebrates, because it's also the same person's deathday. And I'm sitting here on a sunny Saturday morning writing about this, smiling and laughing with any children who come bouncing through the living room, knowing that none of them even know the date (although the two oldest do remember the event, and all of them know about it), nor does my husband remember, and that it won't do anybody any good to be miserable. I suppose, in a way, I AM "celebrating." I'm certainly remembering, and writing it down here so it won't be forgotten, but I'm also celebrating the life exuded by the children I have here.

Birthday season officially opens here with my birthday next month, and the concentrated, stressful birthday season opens in June. But for me, the list will always go: T, Mommy, C, Jörn, Jacob, Elisabeth, Lukas, A's due date, Katie, Helen, T's due date, Marie, C's due date, A. And then Christmas and then we start again.

I think it's pretty cool that, although we repeat months rather a lot, we don't have a single day of the month the same. With 11 people and 14 dates (if I add in the due dates of the three babies we lost), we have 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 21, 22, 24, and 25. I know it's silly, but I like that fact. When I remember (which isn't always), I sing a silly little "Happy Birthday" on the day each month to each of the children. Okay, so that doesn't work in Greek or Spanish or French or probably a whole bunch of other languages, but in English (and German), the word "birthDAY" doesn't implicitly refer only to the (yearly) ANNIversary, even if that's how we generally understand and use the word, so I'm happy to reappropriate it.

Either way, I'm not really singing "Happy Birthday" to T today.


  1. ((Hug))

    Today is also my brother Peter's birthday. FWIW.

  2. ((HUGS)) I understand so well as I too have five sets of 'unremembered' dates in my family. (and kind of another 'unremembered' birthday with the current goings on!)
    A few years ago my Dh had my brother make a special 'mothers' ring. You know the ones with a birthstone for each of your children in it? Well this one has the 'birthstones' of each of my children who I never held in my arms - the ones born straight into heaven.
    Occasionally someone comments on the ring and depending on who they are and how I'm feeling I might tell them what it represents, but at least I know and somehow it feels like they are close by at all times by wearing something to remember them by. Thinking of you.