There it sat, grand and beautiful and beckoning. A monument to another year come and gone. Pink and yellow flowers, their sugary petals seductively calling.
And there he sat, my three-year-old grandson. On top of the table, next to my birthday cake. He was mesmerized by its loveliness, by the sweetness of its thick buttercream frosting, by the flat white plane where no flowers lay, as if covered by a layer of new-fallen snow.
He loves cake.
There he sat for fifteen minutes, contemplating how his finger could reach those flowers for its obligatory swipe of a sugary glob for his waiting mouth. But the plastic cover was too tight; thick and unyielding. He tried. By God, he gave it his best effort. He even toyed with the plastic server that sat waiting to be put to use. He would’ve been more than happy to use it.
The poor boy finally gave up – he was no match for industrial-strength plastic that hadn’t been loosened yet. At least, not if his deed was to be secretive, as he knew it must be. I’m sure he could’ve figured something out if plastic mutilation were an option. But he smartly decided against that move, and just waited. Like everyone else.
I didn’t realize when I brought it home one day early that I’d equipped my home with a torture device for a three-year-old cake-frosting junkie. HE. LOVES. FROSTING.
But no worries. Two days later, his little sister’s cake came home in a flimsy cardboard box. (Note: Gourmet cake bakers should know that their creations really need better protection).
Yep, no problem.
When it was removed from the box for the party, there was a finger-hole down the center of it, where part of the word BIRTHDAY should have been. “Who put their finger in this cake?” my daughter asked, not happy that her little girl’s expensive confection had been mangled.
A wide, proud grin spread across his face, as he happily yelled “ME!”
The celebration of sweet victory.
There is no crying upon entry to the world. There is no sound at all, and it is the most horrible silence you could imagine.
There is nothing to look forward to after suffering the pain of childbirth; the pain is a punishment, instead of the required payment for a wonderful gift.
A total, hollow absence of joy; a vacuum of grief.
A motionless swaddled bundle whose time with you is very brief.
No eyes looking into yours to see the love that will always be there.
A paper autumn leaf taped to the hospital door to let others know that inside lingers the cold and bitter touch of winter, and not the lighthearted joy of spring.
A hospital basinet with ice under the blankets where the small mattress should have been.
Nana will always be there to hold you, whether you are living or not.
Impressions From a Premature Birth:
The wonderful wailing sound of life upon entry to the world.
The scale that tells the world you’re so much smaller than you should be.
The tubes and patches and wires that are a part of your new body after transfer to the NICU.
Eyes looking into mine, seeing the relief that you’re alive.
The rocking chair by each special incubated basinet; the nesting place for the new mothers who have to visit just to be near their own babies.
The tininess of the little bodies in that room; the fear of the parents there.
The beeps and hums of the machinery making sure you’ll live past your birthday.
The thankfulness that, as of this minute, you’re OK.
The lullaby I sing to you so you’ll always know the sound of my voice.
The visits so very structured by times, numbers, ages, and sterile scrub-downs.
The sheer relief and happiness when they finally decide you can go home.
Being so very sure that as long as we have life instead of death, we can deal with it.
Nana will always be there to hold you.
Impressions From a One-Year-Old:
The almost-toothless grin that you give us every other minute, telling us you’re happy.
Your two little bottom teeth that can so expertly gnaw through cookies.
The giggles that we’ve come to love and need so much.
The little glittery jeweled earrings that your mother insisted on getting her first girl.
The way you hold onto my finger for dear life when you try to stand.
Your sheer happiness at just observing life going on around you.
Your refusal to crawl.
Watching your tongue and lips try to form the word Nana, when so far it’s only been DaDa and MaMa.
Being so very thankful that you’re here and happy and healthy; knowing that’s the only thing that really matters.
Nana will always be there to hold you.
Happy Birthday, our little blessing! We love you!