Birthday Dinner 2013
Your birthday fell on a Friday this year which was super inconvenient because it seemed that the days that preceded it were a tangled rush of work and school and kids and house and bad weather and illness. I’d made plans for us to go out that night and at the last minute we almost changed our minds about leaving the house, but I’m glad that I kept the babysitter and stuck to the original plan because we needed that time together.
I always feel badly when it is your birthday or some similar holiday that requires a gift because you are terribly hard to shop for. You buy yourself the things you want…as well as the things you need (like that underwear off Ebay??!!!)…and that leaves me holding the (empty) gift bag! I am always at a loss for ideas and I never feel like what I do or give adequately communicates how I feel about you. Friday I took you to a vegetarian restaurant (apparently the only one for a million miles as I discovered in my 40-minute Google search) because you’ve been so committed to your juice diet and taking care of your health. (I’m proud of you!) It was a great meal in a weird little restaurant where we were pretty much the only customers, but that was okay - weird little adventures is what our life is meant to be made of, I’ve learned. After that we went to the movies and sat way too close to the screen, but we laughed and you held my hand, which I still love. There was no cake and no amazing gift (although that sweater I gave you looked really nice on you!) and we didn’t even get a picture of us together, but it was a very good night.
On Sunday you decided that our family celebration dinner should take place at Kyoto (a local Japanese restaurant where they cook on your table). I was a little skeptical, I admit. The restaurant was expensive and I know how hard we’ve been trying to watch our budget. I worried that the kids wouldn’t eat or that they would misbehave in that dark, quiet venue where you have to share tables with strangers who are trying to have their own good time. We got a late start out the door and poor Larissa had been sick and feverish for three days straight. I was ready to say, “let’s cancel”, but you and the kids were excited by the prospect of our night out, so I sucked up my anxieties and soldiered on.
Long story short: the kids behaved beautifully - the way we dream and hope and wish they’d behave all 365 days of the year. They independently agreed to share meals and decided together what to order. They used manners and interacted with each other absent the usual silliness or insults. Kellan and Larissa (bless her sick little heart) sat still the entire time. Everyone nearly cleaned their plates.
All of us were entranced by the chef who worked on the grill in front of us. I enjoyed a glass of wine as well as my vantage point from the end of the table. While one eye watched the glint of the knives and the sizzle of the stove, the other kept a steady eye on the rest of you. While the chef juggled his utensils for our entertainment, he still had to juggle everything else in front of him in order to ensure that the formidable piles of rice and fish and vegetables and meats somehow came together to make meals for all ten people in front of him. Sometimes I could tell that he was just going through the motions, but then there’d be a moment of genuine pleasure on his face and in his eyes when he managed to elicit a laugh from one of our kids. Most of the time it appeared as if he could prepare this food with his eyes closed, but every once in a while he’d discreetly wipe his face with a towel, overcome by the heat and the effort. After all his careful coordination, eventually those mountains of food were suddenly transformed into meals, and those meals were delicious.
Our relationship has been a lot like the preparation of that meal. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes we have to stop and wipe the sweat off because it is so much hard work. There are times where we just go through the motions, until there is a moment that reminds us of why we are doing what we’re doing. Most of the time it feels like we are just pushing a big old mess all over the place and then….there’s a moment like the one I had around the table that night. I looked at you and the kids and your faces lit up by the flames of the grill, and all of it - the pain and the struggle and the work and the ennui - all of those big messes coalesced into the realization that it has all been worth it. We are raising our family, we are together, and while it’s not always fantastic, so far we’ve done a pretty good job.
Happy Birthday! I hope you enjoyed it.