A couple weeks ago, October 24th to be exact, we celebrated Sebastian’s 4th birthday — an occasion that tendered a mounting surge of anticipation:
“Ima, what day is today?” Sebastian asks eagerly while seated at the breakfast table. I know of course that the anticipated answer is to be articulated in digits, not days of the week. We have been playing this game for three weeks already, since the first day of the 10th month as a matter of fact. October presents a wonderful opportunity for building math skills. “OK, 19, so (hands outstretched and fingers extended) – 20 21 22 23 24 – five more days till my birthday!!!”
His excitement is unbridled, and infectious. I look upon his beaming smile and relish his joy. The lilt in his voice, the clap of his hands: everything is brought forward and upward, as if it can no longer be contained. And I hanker to take it in, to let it spread within me, to contain it all. To never let it go.
This is the first year that Sebastian has demonstrated such pure, utter, and rampant excitement about his birthday. At age four, he clearly has a mature understanding of the implications of entitlement to cake, sweets, and presents.
At bedtime, I squeeze him, this almost four-year old bundle of warmth, and remark that this is my last night clasping a three year old. Three was a good year. He suddenly turns serious. “But Ima, when will I get to be three again? And when will I get to be a baby again?” I begin to reflect on how to respond to his entirely earnest question and feel a pointed pinch in my heart. How do I reconcile a child’s ingenuous holistic grasp with life’s unrelenting march forward? I reflect, a little sadly – wistfully, nostalgically — on the linear passage of time. There is no going back. Ever. I will never have my three year old again. There is only going forward.
Onward. Lance and I go out to get balloons the night before the big day. We deliberate over the color selection process, watch the corner store attendant fill them with anticipation, take the blooming bunch from his hands, and skip home with unchecked joy – feeling like two little kids anticipating a birthday.