birthday fairy steps aside
happens every day. all the best of ’em come to that square on the game board called life when they know it’s time to go. hang up the hat. hook the keys on the nail. tiptoe quietly off to the wings.
happened here last night. i swore i heard the swoosh of her wings, the birthday fairy, as she peeked in the window one last time. pressed her delicate pink nose against the glass, blew a kiss, and flew on.
for the first time in 18 years, the blessed balloon-blowing, poster-wielding, crepe-paper-draping fairy of birthdays did not wreak havoc beside the twin bed where my firstborn snoozed. she did not wind ribbons of crinkly crepe round his bedposts and doorknobs, she did not weave and dodge and try to slither out without waking the dozing log of a boy, who year by year got longer and longer, slept more and more soundly.
for the first time since the year he turned 1, she did not romp through the night making merriment.
it was time, she realized, for the big strapping lad to get on with his life without her.
poor thing, she’s probably curled up on some lily pad this lonely morning licking her wounds.
it’s not easy to give up a post you’ve loved, with a boy you long ago tucked tightly under your wing.
oh, if you peeked in his closets you’d find posters counting up every last year. “top 13 reasons you are loved.” “happy 4 we love you.” “why we love you….(continued from ’06)” and on and on it goes. a numerical stair step through childhood. a boy loved beyond words, but not beyond magic markers and poster boards and his very own fairy’s whimsical ways.
all the way to 18, she kept at it. each year needing to schedule her visit later and later, to account for the nocturnal ways of a teen hurdling toward adulthood. she carried him — oh, yes, she did — right through to the ledge, where little boy ways are folded up and tucked into memory boxes, and voting and driving and first sips of scotch slide onto the landscape.
so last night, despite the tugging there at her heart, despite her teetering back and forth, wondering if maybe one last time she might crank up the markers, haul out the rolls of festooning, she thought back over the subtle signs of the last year, the year far away at college, and all the ways she had come to realize, to know through and through, that it was time to honor the grownup in her midst. to let go of what was, and find a whole new way to embrace the whole of him.
so, for the first time, there was no mad-dash scrambling of pens and puns and ways to spell out “i love you” in numbers and words and silly scribblings.
instead, there was a mama who sat down at her typing board, and typed out a letter, every last word of it moistened by the tears that started to fall and would not stop, not till after the two typed pages were paper clipped, folded and slipped into the envelope marked with a hand-drawn red heart.
this time, on the eve of 19, she did not hide behind fairy wings and bright colored markers. nope, she told him the one thing she wanted him to know: that from the beginning till beyond the beyond, she was the one who loved him like nobody’s business. she was the one true place to which he could always turn, no matter what life throws his way. she will forever be the beacon burning on the hill, over the harbor.
then, when dawn broke and the birthday sky brightened, she hopped in the old wagon and drove to the diner with the cheesy hash he so loves. she scooped up a platter to-go, along with a bacon-cheese omelet, and plunked it all down on the bright red birthday plate, the same one she’s set on the table since back on the day he turned 1.
good thing for that sweet old fairy, there is one more lad in this house, snoozing up in his bed. and he is not yet 11.
our fairy, her load might be lessened, but we’re not done with her yet. she’s got miles of markers before she sleeps, miles and miles of markers and streamers and a rare gift of joy that will never ever grow old.
happy, happy birthday, sweet beautiful will. love, your very own fairy.
what are the life markers you’ve had to retire at your house? and what ones do you forever cling to?
Life Markers…What a great question ! My most recent LM was the sense of amazing quiet which filled my house as “Tall Daughters” moved away…Minnesota, California…
The quiet was a waiting…and waiting…College summers’ came and went, and then, young adults went too. Wings and roots, that is what we give to our children, even when it hurts to lose them. I like to think that I have not lost them, but only lent them to the world, and like a favorite story, I can reread their gifts in my inbox and cherish their child moments in a favorite book or toy which I saved…for me as much as for them.
Then one afternoon, when the house was just too quiet, I remembered my game of imaginary friends as a kid. So the kid in me, has become a big kid with an imaginary town…Three Creeks, Ohio. Lots of adventures happening in Three Creeks !
Come and visit, if you like. I hope the town will warm you with all the graceful memory moments of love unfolding. Find us two places so far…On FaceBook, put Three Creeks, Ohio in the search box at top of FB. You can click on the audio-clips and “hear” the stories already published…”The Rifle” and “Fisher Folk”.
And…you can visit us on line at http://www.classjump.com/threecreeksohio…Here are six stories about the town on my HW page from Three Creeks High School, where in my imagination I teach English, much as I have in the real world.
Life Markers…What a great question!
i had no idea that was the beginning of three creeks. i am enchanted…..
Ah, bam, true wisdom is knowing when to let go, even when it is the very last thing we want to do. All those years of fairyness will be even more meaningful and precious now because of their ending. Hope Will’s bday has been wonderfilled. We have let many habits slip, but rather like “play ball!” comes after the national anthem, after the happy bday song but before the candle-huffing at our house comes, “Make a wish; make it a good one; don’t spit on the cake.” I think that’s here to stay. 🙂
“true wisdom is knowing when to let go…” isn’t that one of the hardest lessons to learn? and, yes, it is clean and satisfying when we finally do (sometimes) for, as you say, by bracketing those years, those traditions, giving them an end, we illuminate forever the years that came before the end.
i will now think of you and not spitting every time i light a candle on a cake. why, thank you!
Lump in my throat. Love reading what you write!
sweet katie, i am so blessed that you have come to pull up a chair. the so many threads from so many chapters of life weave a beautiful lace here at the table. and you are a golden thread from long ago….
Little tear in my eye. I have nothing more to say, honest writing friend!
that little tear says plenty, my beautiful honest and so-very-loyal writing friend. thank you. xoxo
i remember when i came to sit for a wee, curly haired boy to whom the fairy had recently paid a visit. the sunny bedroom in his city castle was draped in streamers like it was a trike in the 4th of july parade. all this elegant draping showed the world: i am loved beyond the beyond!!! all this growing up is making me teary over here. mostly for the fairy who thinks she has hung up her wings for boy #1. little does she know that she’s merely passed them on to flutter in his heart, just waiting for the moment when he’ll slip those feathery appendages on for size. until then though, i’ll keep them warm, just on loan for a bit because i can’t stand to think of them not being used. and let’s face it bam, your words and soaring actions are highly persuasive and inspiring. starting next year i’ll be the one to uncap markers and festoon the room of another june boy (he will be 3 so i’m a bit behind schedule, but i’ll catch up). perhaps queen fairy will have to come and show me how it’s done…..xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
i love you, laura house. have i told you lately that you write like the wind — ” draped in streamers like it was a trike in the 4th of july parade”? oh, yes, the new york times told you that this morning, didn’t they? http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/travel/seeking-a-japanese-guesthouse-experience-closer-to-home.html?pagewanted=all
xoxoxoxo. i’m serious about birthday fairy lessons. sign me up please!
Oh, bam, I am in tears. I am so sentimental about these things. I remember all the special things my mother did for my birthdays… the plastic birthday clown on the table (he rattled when you shook him–and I think he’s still around at my dad’s house), the bouquet of mid-August flowers from the garden, including lots of glads, the trip to the zoo or the Field Museum (shh! don’t tell my colleagues!). But there are few people in my circle to pay this kind of celebration forward to, or who would even appreciate the birthday fuss. So I love being invited to flutter along with you each year and marvel at your loving creativity. Your boys are so lucky–and you are lucky to have them! And happy birthday, Will!
P.S. If you think the wings are accumulating too much house dust on top of the fairy dust, I’ll give you my birthday and my address and leave the keys under the mat. (Just kidding!)
bless your BEAUTIFUL heart……if you hear some rustling the night before your birthday, keep your eyes squeezed closed, and open ’em wide, come morning!!