Because Harper loves math and he needed something to do yesterday as we prepared for a party for Ezra and Harper was spiraling towards trouble, he counted how many birthdays we've celebrated as a family. Including Mama and Papa, and starting at Calvin's first, that makes for 79 days. When he came to me with the number I thought, of course! That's why this feels so second nature, this rhythm that we have, these rituals that we repeat. So simple and small, but they are the things that our family has come to know as how we do birthdays. Year in and year out - gifts in the morning before breakfast, but not until everyone is awake (and you can't yell at your sibling when they wake you up early on their birthday); the birthday banner hung from the same spot, so that the thumbtack holes are permanent; favorite meals prepared and desserts chosen (five out of seven Soules prefer pie); a birthday crown reached for often in the day, out of excitement from the littles and humoring Mama from the older ones (though they do it happily); the photos with two pieces of rolled scotch tape covering the kitchen windows. Oh, the photos! For the 79th time (well, fifteen less than that because I don't do my own), with a million things running around in my head for a pre-celebration to-do list - a house to clean for guests or a pie in the oven that needs washing or a child that needs my attention - I opened the closet door to search for the photos, feeling as though it were just one more thing on my list. And just like I've done dozens of times before on these birthdays, I paused for a moment in guilt at the state of my photo system (I'm a bit behind). Then, like I've always done before, I sighed, moved on, and brought out Ezra's box to fish around for photos in, mindful of the clock and the desire to tick this task off my to-do list. And then, just like the dozens of times before, the clock stopped. I sat down at the kitchen table, flipping through the box of photographs and began crying, then laughing. Then calling to this person or that in the house to look at what I found. I texted a few to my sisters and mother to say, "remember this?" and of course, they did. And that clock, well I forgot all about that clock and decided that I really didn't need to vacuum upstairs after all and everything else on the to-do list could wait, couldn't it?
And just like it has likely done for me many times over, this little ritual that we do 'for the kids' became the very ritual that helped me settle on into what's important, and find my pace for the rest of the day. A day to think about nothing but celebrating this amazing person we are so blessed to watch grow, to share our days with. Thirteen year old Ezra - magical, musical, theatrical, funny, thoughtful and loving- just like he has been for all those days since he was born. Only bigger now - taller than his Mama, and with a much deeper voice. And as I look at all those photographs on the windows, I am newly inspired and reminded to treasure all the moments like it, the ones we are so lucky to share each and every day we are all together. It matters most of all.
"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"
~ Kurt Vonnegut