And then he was eight

He’s been counting down the days for ages, all three of them have, maybe because a birthday feels so different than the every-day-is-the-sameness that COVID life brings. A week or two ago he said, “I’ll try to sleep in on my birthday so that you have time to set up.” Set up? Birthdays aren’t usually something that I go overboard about, even though emotionally they mean a great deal. Maybe it’s because I always find myself greiving a little, wishing they’d stay small for so much longer.

I take their pictures because I don’t want to forget all of the ways that they are that will soon become were. It happens so slowly that we hardly notice it, until I look at a photograph from a year ago and find myself shocked by what babies they were. So slowly and yet so very quickly. Time bends and warps in parenthood. I don’t know how he can possibly be eight.

He had a perfectly lovely day: I hung a birthday banner and a big 8 balloon in the kitchen. He and Mama K picked up donuts for breakfast and then he opened his presents: a LEGO set from his mamas, another from his brother and sister, two good books from Aunt Gina and a drone from Gigi and Papa Doc. Later another coveted LEGO set arrived from Grandma Sue and Grandpa Pat and his aunts and uncles. He flew his drone and spent all day on the robotics set, and at 5:00 our friends drove by the house for a honk-by celebration. When his friend Andrew pulled out of the driveway with his dad Jonah looked sad. I asked if it was because he misses him and he said yes. The ways our friends have shown up for us and our kids during this very lonely time have been SO meaningful. Jonah was thrilled to see friends even from their cars, but sometimes that glimmer of what was brings us back to how lonely things have been.

He carefully chose his Billie Eilish tee, a denim shirt and jeans as his birthday outfit (and Vivi and Jude asked him to choose their outfits too, which was very sweet). He wanted pizza for dinner, and requested a chocolate cake with purple frosting, a number 8 candle, and eight trick candles. He wanted to watch Batteries Not Included tonight, a throwback favorite.

At eight he can be moody and bossy and doesn’t like being told what to do, but he’s also funny and witty and makes poetic observations about the world without even trying. His joy seems to get clearer with each passing year. He loves wordplay and lightbulb moments about anything at all. He loves to read, can’t wait for ski season to begin, and could LEGO for days on end. He loves unicorns and purple things and only wants to wear flip flops, even when it’s freezing outside.

He’s still quite committed to karate (he earned his yellow belt this fall, and watching him makes me so proud). His guitar teacher records portions of his Zoom lessons to help with practice, and this past week I watched several videos from a lesson and it made me so happy to watch him working and goofing around with his teacher. The beauty of this all-together COVID life is that I get so much more time with them all, and I get to observe moments I might miss entirely otherwise.

He still loves to snuggle as much as ever, and he’s still an aggressive cuddler in his sleep, digging his feet into my side to bury them beneath me.

When her family stopped by our driveway his friend Lucy said that eight is a great number because turned sideways it’s also infinity. I know that she shared it as a quirky mathematical fact, but there’s something unintentionally profound there. I’m trying to remember now if my sister told me that eight was a good age to have portraits done of children because that’s the age at which they really begin to look the way they will as they age. I’m not certain that was the number, but maybe there is something that clicks around now and stays with us. Infinity.

He told us that it was the best birthday ever, which is the same thing he said about COVID Halloween, so despite all that has changed and been lost there’s a lot left to celebrate. As I tucked him in he said, “I bet nobody in the world has had a birthday this good.” Happy birthday, Jonah love. May the kind of happiness you felt today follow you to infinity.

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