Today our Ave turned seven. Just last night she went to bed a six year old, dreamed all the things that six year olds dream, and this morning, poof, she is seven.
Today we watched her get her ears pierced (again. This is labor of love, she likes to let the holes grow in and subject herself to this again and again) and she sat bravely and held the Claire’s bear. She said, later in the car, moms, that really hurted, but there were so many people watching me I just had to be brave.
Before that the photographer for our church directory photo shoot sang happy birthday to her, like the whole song, as we all stood there with forced smiles feeling awkward.
She wanted to have lunch at G&L and the server brought her a candle that sang happy birthday and gave her a free shake.
She picked out her presents this year and she and Casey and I sat around the kitchen table and went step by step through the instructions to build a Minecraft scene, complete with a waterfall and carrots and a skeleton.
Tonight she took a short bath and bounced back and forth, pushing with her strong toes from one end of the tub and bouncing back to the other so the bubbly water sloshed over the slick skin of her belly and up over her chin and her hair floated out around her.
I am told these are the days that I will miss, and I’m sure that’s true, it is just so hard to see it now.
Casey pulled up some old videos on Facebook and we watched Ave at two in a satin nightgown with horses on it. We watched her count the coffee cups in the dishwasher and, when asked if she liked her new night gown crow, I WUV IT !
I remember when she was born, this baby forced from the womb so we could all keep our social engagements. There is a video out there somewhere of her first bath and a pony tailed Kaia watching with big eyes, while the warm soapy water lapped the slick skin of her newborn belly and sometimes hit her chin, as it washed the earth of another world off her head and out of her hair.
Our house is really very small, and sometimes, when I am living in scarcity, this bothers me. When I am living in abundance it makes me happy to look around at the candles flickering in their little holders and to know that the children are ten steps away, that I can hear them as they giggle and eat yogurt on Kaia’s bed. The candles remind me of the title of a wonderful book, little altars everywhere, little prayers on the bookcases, the bathroom counter, the new shelf in the hall.; all keeping vigil.
Tonight when Ave decided she needed a bath the bathroom immediately filled up. This happens at our house, no one needs the bathroom until its occupied. Ave is the only member of the family who will chat happily with any visitor from the tub. Her tub was filling and she was singing (at the top of her lungs) LET IT GO! LET IT GO! and I had to chime in and then Kaia came in to brush her teeth and the dog wandered in to see who was making so much noise, a cat peeped around the corner and Casey just had to hear the ruckus to know he wanted no part of it.
He went and helped the neighbors move their new washing machine off a pickup and into the house while we sang and splashed and filled the bathroom with steam and voices and splashing water. As I washed Ave (thanks mom, for starting this little trend!) the dog huffed and rested his old bones on the rug next to me. He looked confused, as he does most of the time lately, like he should know us, like the timbre of our voices ringing in song is familiar, but like he just can’t figure out how he came to be in this small steamy room with a naked seven year old who is harmonizing with her mom.
Later, just a few minutes ago, we were filling the water cups with water that no one will actually wake up to drink in the middle of the night. I cracked ice cubes into the cups and handed the tray to Kaia to refill. She said, What? Why?
I said, Hhhnnnnn! Because its empty, and when the tray is empty we refill it! Someday you people who claim to be my family and who live in this house will realize that.
She said, brightly, sarcastically, ahhhh! the magic of making ice cubes explained!
And I let the sarcasm go since the tray was filled and in the freezer.
Tomorrow our Ave will have a family party and we will celebrate her beloved aunts too. Tomorrow this little house will fill with my family and the smells of food. Today my mom was in England and dreaming of the way the autumn light hits the bay in Traverse City, of the little house she and Peter lived in that was just down the street from that water, how she was there when her granddaughters were born, among the first to snuggle them and to tell them they were welcome and beloved in this strange place.
I am told this will go so quickly, and that very soon, like tomorrow, it will be Casey and I standing in the driveway as Ave drives away; wondering what the hell just happened. I am trying to remember that through the empty ice cube trays and the Minecraft legos I am sure to step on many times over the coming months.
We took one (ok many!) cheesy photos for the directory today, one in particular was disturbing. The photographer proudly displayed it to us, there is me, with my crossed arms rested on Casey’s shoulders and my head tilted, per direction, just so, and Casey smiling too. And we looked like our parents. We didn’t look like the people we think we are.
We talked about it on the way home, the way he is almost 40 and I am just 36. We talked about how that feels, the sorrow that comes with that. We talked about we come to grips with the fact that we are growing up.
I am trying not to take time for granted.
And I wonder if that is what her heaven will be like, a warm bubble bath, skin slick with clean water, bouncing with strong toes from one end of the tub to the other, feeling like she is seven and it is her birthday. I wonder if heaven is just really our favorite moments played out again and again, and I know it is unique to us all.
Ellen entered the Red Tent last night, and it was all I hoped it would be. She sorted silverware and commented on how we had so much, we must have bought new since she’d come last time. And Cindi put dishes away and I stood and surveyed the tiles on the floor, the behemoth of a stove and cook top, my elbows on the stainless steel table; and this world that feels like it is constantly teetering felt still for moment, for just a moment there was peace.
I can hear the dog who isn’t sure he belongs to us having a snack (cat food, does he think he’s a cat? it is very possible), I can hear Casey shifting in his “fifteen minutes only!” nap, and I can hear and actually feel the glorious silence from the bedroom ten steps away. The light from the neighbor’s living room glows through my curtains, and the rain is misting over the lake, scudding like small clouds, rattling the geraniums.
I am trying to lock these things away and to keep them, to press them like flowers into a book. I am looking for grace and finding it to be everywhere.
Happy Birthday, Avery Grace.