the birthday fairy

by bam

like that whole parade of the enchanted–santa, the easter bunny, the tooth fairy–she comes when you are sleeping.
she walks on her tippy toes. she tries, hard, not to get tangled in her web, the web of her own making. and the balloons, the blowing of balloons grows more breathless every year–she reports.
i mean i wouldn’t know. i just get these little scribbled notes, progress reports, in the morning, twice a year, june 22 and august 8, the days my boys were born, the days the fairy comes. in the night, of course. always in the night. while they are sleeping, dreaming birthday dreams.
when they awake–kaboom! kapow!–their whole chamber is awash in crepe paper and balloons (some blown fully, some not) and signs. oh, the signs. there are poster boards everywhere they look, in the closet, beside the bed. taped to lamps (beware the fire hazard), on the ceiling.
placards, signs, whole billboards, really. telling who was sleeping how very, very much he is loved.
by the birthday fairy, of course. it is all about the fairy leaving wisps of magic in her trail.
funny thing this year, perplexing thing, is that the birthday boy is often turning out his light well past his mama’s bedtime. not that his mama has anything to do with the birthday fairy or anything,
but, sheesh, one of us was really needing toothpicks to keep the eyelids propped last night, and the nearly 14-year-old just carried on as nearly 14-year-olds are wont to do these days. had some IM’ing to do. and a little browsing on the web.
while one of us was nearly stalking the door. just happened to have the annual load of crepe paper rolls stuffed in pockets, poster boards spilling down the stairs. balloons making that ol’ tattered robe look as if, well, anna nicole smith had moved in for the night. if you catch my drift there. (psst, in case anyone is counting, that there was a.n.s.’ second-ever mention here at the table; not bad considering the avalanche we are up against out there in the world of magazine rack culture.)
at last, when even toothpicks to the lids were failing, one of us had to knock at that teenage door, inquire insistently, “sweetheart, are you tired? do you think perhaps you would like to go to sleep?”
perhaps the dear thing had heard me pawing at the door, like some pathetic mouse. or perhaps my balloons had let out a telltale squeak.
whatever, as they like to say. he caught my drift, no thick-head birthday boy is he. he threw off the t-shirt, dove between the sheets. he feigned sleep quite nicely. accommodating fellow. always has been.
so while the teen pretended to be in dreamland, the one who does the draping and the taping on the eve of all the birthdays found herself oddly thinking how rather sort of sweet it was to finally wink and let him in on all the years of rustling in the dark.
you see, the birthday fairy first tapped on one of our bedroom windows long, long ago. when the big one, the one whose chin is now inches above the tippy-top of my head, was but a baby. a two-year-old, i am fairly certain.
for the life of me, though, i cannot quite recall exactly how it was that he awoke that first second birthday with his room a criss-crossed twisted web of crepe paper in every color, and balloons galore. hmm. perhaps it had something to do with the fact that, for years and years, that little curly-headed boy slept in my grandma’s nearly 100-year-old bed, a four-poster bed, a bed whose posts called out to be a crucial part of the birthday fairy’s twisted plot.
maybe it was the posts that called out for birthday decoration.
or maybe it was something deeper. a sense of blessing that exploded out of me like a birthday popper filled to bursting with confetti.
or maybe it was my from-the-get-go, hard-wired determination and desire to wrap that little boy in a love so thick and undeniable, the crepe paper and balloons and all the silly posters (nearly every one of which, a whole lifetime of mama-made naive art, are saved, tucked up high in the closet and the attic) just couldn’t help but pop from my ever-poppin’ head.
i do know this: the joy of watching little eyes awake, take in the wholeness, the all-enveloping sense that this morn was something special, and thus anointed, a day unlike any other day, well, that sold me on what will probably be a lifelong assignment stringing crinkly paper and increasingly-less-blown-up balloons on the eves of the days my babies were first cradled in my arms.
it is what a mother does. it is what this mother does. as i type, i wipe away the tears, the overwhelming birthday gift that never leaves me, no matter how many times it’s been unwrapped: all my life i prayed to be a mother. it wasn’t easy, not for me at least, getting to that delivery room. the whole time i was there i pinched myself, i checked to see if it was real, or just a taunting dream from which i would awake.
if it’s a dream, i never did wake up. so every year, i celebrate my gift, my extraordinary blessing, by climbing up the stairs, fully armed, equipped with all the makings of the birthday fairy who is more than thrilled to spend her wee wee hours stringing joy and hallelujahs from bedpost to closet door, from doorknob to window sill, and back again.
on and on i will string, no matter how big that log in bed grows to be. no matter how unconvincingly he pretends to be deeply sawing zzzzzs.
i will always be his mother. i will always be, don’t tell, his birthday fairy. on my hands and knees i drop, i say amen, amen, amen. and hallelujah.

funny thing, some times these words take turns i did not expect. that whole last bit came pouring out. i’ll let it be. that is the beauty of a meander. it’s fresh and raw. it is what it is. and i suppose it’s what it needed to be today.
how do you bless the days on which those you love were born? you tell me that, while i go grab a hankie…