I asked you what you wanted for dinner on your birthday and, like always, you swiftly formed a grand and specific plan:
I'll just have ice cream for dinner - chocolate ice cream, no sprinkles - and I don't want cake because I like ice cream better and I need striped candles and a number 6 candle, too, of course, and you can put them right into the ice cream for me!
And I said: "but what do you want for dinner?"
And you looked at me like I was daft. ICE CREAM! I told you!
So you know what? You're only six once. And I fed you chocolate ice cream dinner in celebration.
It was very cold today, just like on the day you were born, and just as sunny. You were born at almost high noon, three minutes til, and just like you to pick a number that's slightly west of the easy standard. I thought of you when the sun broke out today. Jumping forth and being noticed: one of you is just like the other.
We had lunch at the rabbi's house after synagogue services on Saturday. We'd never been invited there before. At some point between lunch proper and dessert, you grew twinklish. That's how I think of your mischievous spirit when you can't keep it demure any longer. It starts in your eyes, but it always spreads to your laugh and eventually through your whole body. You crawled under their dining room table slyly, unnoticed, and suddenly tickled the feet of both the rabbi and his wife. First they shrieked and then they laughed and you yelled careful! There's a monster! and I'm sure I never thought to instruct "don't crawl under other people's tables and touch their feet, especially, I don't know, if they're clergy, maybe" but now I know to say that. Lesson learned, and also the one that this rabbi and his wife truly do appreciate kids because they smiled and laughed and called you delightful. "Dinner and a show," the rabbi said an hour later as we were gathering our coats, and I could only shake my head. "It's not just a meal, though," I said to him. "This is every minute of our lives." Then he rumpled your hair and whispered to me:
I do, you wild and crazy thing, even if sometimes I'm bracing for what might come out of you next, or come out of some other person in response to you. Your sister taught me that I can't control emotions and you've taught me that I can't control actions and your brother came along and proved that life (with you three, at least) is chaos theory. I don't know if other sets of three children don't feed off each others' energies as much as you three do, or maybe I just got lucky? I got the most rambunctious, spirited, imaginative, boisterous trio in the world? I can't tell. I'm just trying to keep track of everyone's hats and mittens and permission slips and karate belts and homework and make sure there's always chocolate ice cream in the freezer. You say that the celebration is the main event, and I say I'm listening. I'm trying to embrace just a portion of your joie de vivre. I couldn't handle the whole measure but I love watching you as you do so so exquisitely. You certainly are your own metronome, and you like the beat to be FAST.
You've freshly entered a pink obsession. You read a storybook to me tonight. You're a magpie, always collecting for a future invention or art project. You are enthralled by your sister and dote on your brother. You are loving, emphatic, dramatic, loud, affectionate. You have the most raucous laugh and the rabbi's wife is right: it's delightful.
You make friends easily and always have an idea and are content in your own company. You like when I change voices for different characters in the books we read at night and you correct me when I use the wrong one. You are self-assured. You are smart and beautiful and kind. You are generous and unflinchingly honest. You are so funny.
You are so happy to be six.
We have an ongoing argument, you and I. You say, always, I love you more than you love me and I say such a thing can't be, it isn't possible. You are stubborn, too, and you can't concede ever, not even the possibility that my love for you could even be equal to yours, let alone greater. So we go back and forth. I love arguing with you, is the secret, because I admire how you hold your stance unyieldingly, but always argue with civility. And when you can't take it anymore? I know your trick. I know you'll resort to distraction and morph into a tickle monster, but I'll argue that, too, just to tickle you back and hear that boundless laugh.
I do love you to forever, and you can't measure past that, no matter how convincingly you try to say otherwise, how pleadingly those wide eyes beg for concession. You can't win but I'll always keep playing. Happy birthday, Sweets McGee.