A Birthday in Spring

He was born at the perfect time, but his sisters might disagree. They had a gymnastics recital that night, and when the contractions started it was only fifteen minutes before show time. So his dad and I skipped the recital and rushed to the hospital, leaving his sisters in the care of good friends and a reliable video camera.

He was born a week late, too, after several days of record-breaking heat in April. All of my maternity clothes were fit for winter, and I refused to buy anything more suited for summer just for the sake of a few bizarre 90-degree days. So I sat around soccer fields, sweating in dark denim and long-sleeved shirts, completely pit-soaked as I watched his sisters play.

He was born after midnight because I have this weird thing about odd numbers, and April 23rd didn’t sound like a good birthday to me. Surprisingly the midwife agreed, she said let’s wait another half-hour, and for thirty grueling minutes I tried NOT to have a baby.

He came at 12:35 a.m. on April 24, 2010, four years ago, and I still believe it was perfect timing.

***

This has always been my favorite season. When signs of spring emerge, when things start turning green again, something always turns in me.

It’s shaping up to be one of his favorites, too. After being cooped up in the house for months, who could blame him for wanting to throw every door wide open? To run barefoot through a sea of dandelions and spin wildly in a swirl of maple leaf helicopters? To dig in the dirt until no scrub-brush on earth could get his fingernails clean?

We like to bounce on the trampoline together, holding hands and jumping high until our hair stands up from the static and one of us knocks the other over, turning us into a heap of giggles, making the springs recoil with our laughter.

He has so much to say these days, and I know most people don’t understand, but I do. I love it when he tells me I’m pretty, when he tells me he loves me, and when he wakes me up in the morning, saying, “I’m a knight and you’re a princess and I’m here to save you.” And it’s like he knows that’s what he was born to do.

Because before he arrived, with a family, a good life, it seemed I was hell-bent on throwing it all away. A grown-woman stumbling through a second adolescence, I was trying desperately to figure out who I was, to feel comfortable in my own skin. But with plenty of hours logged on my counselor’s couch, by the time I became pregnant with him, I had it almost figured out. He was like a fresh start; his life represented new life in me.

Easter came early the year he was born, almost three full weeks before his due date, and for all the beautiful and spiritual reasons surrounding that religious holiday, I really hoped to deliver him on that day. But, like I said, he was on a different timetable.

His first birthday fell on Easter, though, and I remember holding him that morning at our church’s sunrise service, tears falling from my face onto his dimpled fists, knowing I’d been saved all over again.

***

We promise to take him to his favorite amusement park this year for his birthday. It opens just two days after he turns four. And since he hasn’t fully grasped the concept of calendar time, we have to count down the days by looking out the window and checking for signs of spring.

Day after day, month after winter month, I repeat, “after the snow melts and the grass turns green and the leaves come on the trees, then it will be your birthday.”

Finally, the day arrives and when I make the announcement he’s been waiting for, he rushes to the window to see for himself.

“The snow’s melted, the grass is green –” he hesitates. “But there’s no leebs.”

“I know, sweetheart,” I assure him, “The leaves are only buds right now because spring is a little late. But the park is open, I promise. We’re definitely going there today.”

He stares out the window a little longer, not sure whether or not to believe me. So he checks with his dad. And then his sisters, until all of us gather around the windowsill, telling him in a wild chorus that it is, indeed, time to celebrate.

So we pile in the car and speed to the amusement park where he rides fire trucks and helicopters and rocket ships and roller coasters all day. He eats pizza and popcorn and Dippin’ Dots. He screams – in a good way – for six hours straight.

A Birthday in Spring

A Birthday in Spring

A Birthday in Spring

A Birthday in Spring

That night, while holding in my arms this boy who won’t stop growing, he asks to go again tomorrow. I’m not a princess anymore, I’m the bad guy now; I have to say no. But I promise another day.

“When the leebs come on the trees?” he wonders as he drifts off to sleep.

“Yes, buddy,” I whisper, “when the leaves come on the trees.”

Because I know they’re coming. I know everything in spring comes at the perfect time.

I could never count all the ways
That you change me, Baby
Every day the sky is a deeper shade of blue
When I’m with you — JJ Heller

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