That's what he told me -- earnestly -- the night before he leapt into seven. It was just after I told him the story of his birth, as I always do on the eve of his birthday and as my mother always does on the eve of mine.
"The day you were born was the happiest day of my whole life," I said, just as earnestly.
"It was?! Even with all the great and happy times we've had together?"
"Oh, yes. Because it was the first one," I kissed his forehead. "It's what got all of those happy times started."
He is delighted and a little confused to hear the story of his very beginning beginnings because his father has a part in it all. When I told him about his dad scrambling around nervously to find CDs to calm the mood in the delivery room, I knew he was thinking of the one memory he has of that apartment we lived in and it is one of the few times in his early life I was not there. As I described waking his father up when my water broke, I imagined it was funny to think of either of us sharing a bed with anyone but him. While I detailed the moment he was placed in my arms for the first time, as I whispered, "Hello, baby, I'm your mommy" into wide, staring, calm, liquidy brown eyes of my brand new baby boy, he stopped to ask if his dad held him, too, if he was there.
I was reminded, snuggled up with him there and by what he does not remember and what I hold for him, that at seven, his parents have now been apart for more of his life than they were together. Laying there in the normality of that -- of birthday celebrations with one side of his family and then the other, with cakes and balloons and gifts at two homes -- we let the small, tidy gift of memories of when we were all together and happy and full hope sit between us for a few quiet moments.
Other kids have been through much more. Of course. Children in countries far from our cozy little home in a big and industrious city are earning an income for their families, are helping to raise other children, are working to stay alive. Children blocks away are surviving in other ways too enormous to type out, forced to make adult decisions, edged out of their own childhood.
We are privileged in so many ways. I know. Still, as the one who bore down and brought him into the world, as the one who packed up his toys and 2T t-shirts and walked away from that home where we really all did live once together, as the one who explained and wiped tears and tried to find responses to all of his questions, I couldn't help right then but think, "For seven, this kid's been through some stuff." Some of it big, some of it totally normal, some of slightly and delightfully strange, some of it that gives lovely pause, some slightly tough moments, some of it rather sad and also triumphant, and most of it...well, wow. Pretty exhilaratingly, exhaustingly, hilariously AWESUM.
Look at that smile, feel the confidence, watch the concentrated side-jump kicks.
(At Ed Debevic's for a birthday dinner, including the "world's smallest sundae." No, he didn't eat more than two bites. Why? Because he had eighteen other desserts that day. That makes 2.57 chocolate celebratory treats for every year of life. Not bad, kid. Not bad.)
Take in the questionable hip-thrusty dance moves, shake your head at the many, many costume changes. Try to ignore the lengthy description of a scene from "Despicable Me", listen to the jumbled up lyrics of a Justin Bieber song pour from him -- there's nothing to feel sorry for. He's taken it all and cranked on it, processed it, asked about it, run with it -- fast and far and way to the other side of the playground.
(We considered all his well-practiced back-talking to the sassy 50s-inspired server Frank to be part one of his 12-year job interview for Frank's job. Lil E was still coming up with lines to use on the guy hours after we left the restaurant.)
He's good. He's great. He's seven. SEVEN.
Plus, many more years and ages than that.
Back in time with my boy: