Six years ago I carried you for way longer than I had anticipated. Inside, you swirled for what felt like a lifetime on full bed rest and then, as your wit and determination would later show, when the timing was your way, you made your way. You were born on another island, on a prairie, in a kitchen, in a pool, within our Victorian home. Minutes before midnight, with music loud around and our pets looking on, you floated to the top both perfectly and slowly. All this you know; we tell you of this first journey over and over. I know, I never tire of your story of our worlds coming together.
You’re still all cheeks and dimples, and make me laugh when I least expect it. When I sense it coming, you flip it just so I laugh way harder than expected. Oh, Lucy. You’re the best middle there is. Younger and older sister, you’re used to playing both sides of a scene. You know right where to go when it matters for what you want, and for that I’ve found a deeper understanding of patience. You’ve made me a better mama by showing what’s possible when a mind doesn’t wander and a heart bursts open with desire.
This year, we set the alarm early and sang the day’s traditional song a few times before 7:00 am. Olive had a hard time it wasn’t her birthday. Happy Birthday is her favorite song after all, next to Rudolph. It’s not her fault; a Halloween birthday means she is an absolute holiday and celebration fan. Like the good big sister you are, you deemed her the official gift hander-outer and she was thrilled, stopped crying and jumped right into duty.
It feels good to have delivered everything you’d asked for: gold sparkly sneakers, a bunny in a box, a mama-sewn bunny fabric skirt, a new dress that is like a long and flowy t-shirt, and a new coloring book. Six wishes granted. Some birthdays are more special than others, and this one felt just so. You’re reading and writing and lost one more front tooth. In glasses you’re adorably cute, and it just feels fabulous to deliver the day you’ve planned and dreamed about since the day after Christmas.
In Kindergarten, I was there when your classmates sang to you a second time. They were still telling you how super cool your new purple specs are and I think you got to be Number One Helper. I love how, for you, the very best part of your birthday muffin was the sticker topper. With you, it’s the tiniest details that come together to make things just perfect. I love that about you.
In the afternoon, Daddy, Olive and I came to watch you circle the sun six times with the world in your hands. You listened to stories and shared photos from each year of your life. Your friends listened intently and I could see it. Really, Lucy. I could just see how important you felt.
The party continued outside in the bright, rare full Pacific Northwest sun. Your class held a Chinese New Year celebration outside because the dragon was finally dry and ready and beautiful. I hope you look back in this moment, decades from now, when someone asks you about how wonderful your three-year Montessori program must have been. I hope you remember being inside the dragon you helped paint as friends drummed behind you.
After school, I surprised you with balloons and a milkshake. We made our own parade through town and all the tourists stopped to say, Happy Birthday, and each and every time you’d be surprised they knew. Somehow, holding balloons comes naturally so you’d forget about the giant gold six announcing your day to the island from above.
We paraded to the end of the dock and went to our port’s aquarium. Funny, how one relatively small salt water tank can fascinate you and your sisters for so long. While changing lenses, I caught this glimpse of you checking in on me through the big and happy heart of the gold six balloon. You, in vintage seventies thrift store shades and all dimples and cheeks and red lips. Yes, you are still the babe I held tightly onto your very first night out in our world.
Maybe it’s all the silver you’ve seen in my jewelry box, but somehow you’ve found love’s way to gold.
It’s so you and bright and perfect. Flashy and classy all the same.
Our late afternoon moved slow enough to wave the ferry into port while you and your sisters kept slurping for one more milkshake sip though straws.
When the last car unloaded and your last wave went unnoticed, we walked up the hill to get a best pal for an early dinner at your favorite restaurant. Daddy met us after work, just in time for seemingly endless tick tac toe, pineapple pizza and s’more ice cream pie with another go around of Happy Birthday.
Your celebration flowed into the next day where Easter eggs were prepped and you could devote hours to planning the rabbit farm you dream to some day have. You wondered so very much about the Easter Bunny it was hard not to break down in laughter. Why is only one so big with a small basket? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a big sleigh like Santa? Where does the Easter Bunny live? And, my favorite, Who are the Easter Bunny’s Mama and Daddy? So many fabulous questions swirl inside your mind. I love it.
Easter is your favorite holiday and your big sister Betty knows it. She let you own this holiday, watching quietly from the sidelines of celebration. I think this is the first year she knew about the implausibility of an Easter Bunny but she never would have let on. She loved how you hunted for your hidden Easter Basket in the morning and made sure you didn’t hear when she said she knew how the Easter Bunny shopped on-island for the basket’s contents. She wore ears whenever you asked her to and prompted Daddy to tell all the stories of his favorite childhood Easter memories or, as you call them, True Life Easter Tales.
True. Your sister Betty made me a Mama. But Lucy, it’s you who changed a favorite word to plural and had me first saying something I’ll never tire of: I have daughters.
We went to Roche, an English garden by the sea on our island’s tip. Over three thousand hand-dyed eggs await baskets and, for the first time ever, you and your sisters were in separate age gardens. It was hard to not be all together and watch you stockpile pastel hard boils.
But know that your littlest sister had listened to everything you’d been telling her about a successful Easter. She was ready and fancy and first in line.
She carried a new Easter bunny and waited patiently for the count down to the hunt. She promised she’d say excuse me if someone bumped baskets. I was happy to hear you’d remembered to remind her of Easter manners on the car ride to the other end of our island.
And when the rope came down and the crowd yelled, Happy Easter, she absolutely came open. This Halloween-born little sister of yours was careful in the colors she chose to pick up. She giggled and smiled and said, Hello, to others along the way.
You would have thought she was perfectly adorable the way she went about gathering for the first time with you and your big sister in other gardens.
And like you, Olive doesn’t like to have to pose for a family picture. But since we were all dressed spiffy I promised y’all more chocolate before dinner. We remained still beside more eggs than we’d know what to do with.
This day, your absolute favorite holiday on your sixth year was the warmest and most cloudless of the year. Cherry blossoms in bloom and fancy lawn art to check out made for a perfect post-basket-filling game.
The daffodils were out. Before tulips, as always.
And your dinner, the one you planned with four best girl friends and Easter HAMburger. It was warm, like August warm. Your newest baby friend Pearl even got to enjoy the sunshine.
In between trampoline giggles and steep slide races, an Easter Bunny appeared. He was hiding eggs and apologizing for not putting them around our yard sooner. In fact, all day you’d asked when the Easter Bunny was going to hide the eggs you’d left on the porch. I wanted to tell you the Easter Bunny was a good friend of mine, but I knew that would spill my secret. I meant it, you know. Mamas are friends with the very best part of imagination and belief.
It just kinda happened that I came across an extra bunny suit and a friend willing to work in full character. You know, if you’d listened closely, you might have learned he had the same voice as a Santa from a prior year. This is but one secret this Mama keeps. I can’t wait to hear you tell of the year an Easter Bunny came to your small and fabulous birthday bash.
We made a white bunny cake together. Licorice whiskers, Oreo and peanut-mini-Ritz eyes, cheddar bunny nose, and glittery tall ears with cream cheese frosting looked better than we even imagined. When our cake was done, you told me you wanted to be a chef and a farmer. I told you how you could be everything. I meant every word of our cake conversation.
Four days earlier, you’d won a coloring contest. Actually, it was your third in a row. With the prize money you bought this crazy lotus candle that had a wire to cut for a Happy Birthday song to play, sparklers that shot out the top and flaming petals that twirled around. I’ve never known such a candle to exist, let alone be legal. But somehow, someway, it was for sale on our tiny island and it was the exact amount of your winnings.
It was everything you dreamed of for the birthday cake we’d made together.
Happy Birthday, Lucy May. Thank you for your farm-love, your humor, your dimples, and your open-book love. You make me a better Mama. Both Daddy and I are so very proud of you. I can fast forward my mind to see you in a fancy dress working on a pick up with Daddy in the yard in years to come. But Lucy, I know you’ll continue to surprise me. And that’s the very best part of being your Mama.
Happy 6th Birthday, Babe.