Friday, March 8, 2013
On a Child's Seventh Birthday
They say that seven is a lucky number. But lucky, exactly, for whom?
Seven is supposedly so many things: a years-long itch, a deadly sin, a sun, a son, a wonder of the world, a sister, a number of days, all of the seas on earth, a particularly impressive notion of heaven.
Seven is also the number of years it’s been since my first child, my daughter, was born.
She was born early, not by choice but rather necessity, to protect me and her from the high blood pressure in my veins that threatened us both. The whole thing started in the morning, and she was born a little before 6 pm, silently, as if she wanted to reconsider. One of the odd things about giving birth is that you remember everything, every last detail, and yet it all seems impossible, like it couldn’t have actually happened. When your child is a small person living fully in society, it’s hard to fathom how she used to live inside of you, how at one point in a sense you were one and the same.
What a world!
Because you and she are not the same. She is gymnastics, and you are basketball. She is arts and crafts, and you are poetry. She is obedience and you are rebellion. She is straight fine hair and you are thick and curly. She is competition and you are just too busy laughing in the background to care.
And now, she is seven.
Seven is an important age, somewhere between being a little kid and being a not so little kid. Do you remember being seven? I do. I remember resignedly waking up at midnight to take my epilepsy medication. I remember that my best friend was a boy, and everyone—well, mostly adults—teased us about being “boyfriend/girlfriend.” I remember my last year with a bowl cut before my hair turned curly. I remember being able to float on my back on the water for 30 minutes straight. I remember pancakes and peanut butter and crackers and watermelon boats. I remember jumping rope for hours without stopping and reading novels intended for people ten years older and lying in the hammock in my back yard.
What will my daughter remember of being seven?
Will she remember her surprising strength, the impressive little muscles in her belly and arms? Will she remember her “monochrome” phase, wearing the same color from top to bottom? Being student of the month? Winning the spelling bee? Playing with her brother—finally, finally!—peacefully and happily for hours on end? Refusing to eat? Colored pencils or sleds shaped like polar bears? Treating an eraser with a smiley face as if it’s a real life person? Playing gin with her mother on a Friday night? Any of these songs that we sing?
Well, she will now, because I wrote this.
What can we give our children but a name, some mannerisms, immeasurable love and memories they’d like to keep?
We can give them nothing else but a wish. And so we say, Happy Birthday.
And when I remember this happy 7th birthday, I will think about how I went to her classroom to do a little poetry project. She was so excited in theory and so shy in practice. And as everyone else was shouting and giving their answers to the age-old philosophical question of Why Popsicles? and it came time for her turn, I already knew the answer: Because 30 years have passed between your eyes and mine. I asked her, why did you choose that one? And she said, in front of the entire first grade:
Because I love you.
I will always remember you when you were seven, Lenny. Always—no matter how many more sevens I've got.
This post is also available at KatyDidCancer.