On your son’s second birthday you wake up when the alarm goes off, too early as always. Your head is still fighting for rapidly diminishing dreams, not enough rest absorbed. You remember being awake at midnight, with your book in your hand, waiting for the melatonin to kick in and knock you out. You hit snooze 1 or 4 times before forcing yourself out of bed, shuffling to the kitchen where you say a silent thank you to your husband for brewing coffee before he went to bed only an hour before.
You sit on the couch and sip, waiting for reality to set in, for your senses to catch up to your motions. Your daughter walks in, crawls onto your lap and falls back asleep. Your son, the birthday boy, soon follows, and by this time you are percolated enough to make breakfast for them and start sing-songy verses about birthdays and all sorts of wonderful things.
It’s time for clothes and makeup. Well, hell, just twist your hair up into a low bun because it really should have been washed this morning, but you didn’t get out of bed early enough, did you?
Off to work, the place you so lovingly named “Dysfunction Junction”. Your boss cries, you awkwardly try to continue doing your work. You light out of there two minutes early without guilt. Buy paper plates, a scented candle, and some lip gloss that turns out to be disappointingly orange.
Then off to see the concrete being poured for your driveway and some strange men as well as relatives working already several hours into hard labor. Look just long enough and then tuck your glossily most pointedly un-sweaty and orange-lipped self back into your vehicle and go to pick up your daughter from pre-school.
They tell you that she was flushed and warm earlier, keep an eye on her. Off to the supermarket because you just spoke to your mother-in-law who told you to pick up some ice cream and a prescription for your husband’s grandmother. Your daughter throws a fit over Oreos, sits down in the middle of the grocery store. Try to maintain proper balance of patience as well as discipline. Go home, wrap presents, change clothes, go next door where the future party waits.
Small talk, laughter, obligatory complaining about jobs-health problems-family members that are not present. Pizza arrives, chow down. Call husband, when will he be home? Wait. Wait. Wait. Son starts throwing self on ground, making highly unpleasant screeching sounds. Call husband, “when will you be here? Cake needs to be cut!”
Husband, weary, “Go ahead without me”.
So you go ahead, wishing your husband were here to see his son blow out the two candles on his birthday cake, to see the smile that can’t stay hidden when all the attention is on him, to see him tear open his presents and greet each one with unrestricted enthusiasm.
But it happens, and you smile, because you can’t restrain it, and everyone is laughing, and everyone is glad to be there on a Wednesday night, eating cake and celebrating life.