Last night after I'd nursed Claire to sleep, tucked her in, and the boys were in their room reading, my gal and I went upstairs and stuffed party bags while candles burned on our mantle and the house smelled of cinnamon and vanilla. Then, we wrapped presents and hung our birthday streamers from the table.
After we were done, we slipped out the door, drove to the library to drop off books and then to the grocery store to pick up sausage (part of what the boys had requested for breakfast today) and candy bars to top their presents.
It was just she and I in the dark, windows down, both in the front seat, music playing. I looked over at her at one point and said, "I love you, Mia." And, for a second, I found myself thinking about quick evening runs to the store with my dad years ago---sometimes really late trying to beat the Sabbath, or sometimes to grab some yogurts or ice cream or odds and ends. I wondered if she'll look back and remember times like this.
I know I will.
When we came home and walked in the back door, I was reminded of Christmas with those yummy fall smells combined with that scent that comes from the smoke when you blow candles out, and I instantly felt warm inside.
This morning, Claire sat on the counter in the kitchen, sunlight streamed through the backyard, the presents and streamers decked the table.
We turned on Pharrell's "Happy" and it set the whole mood while we grooved and mixed up some pancakes,
cooked sausage and fried potatoes, and then we sat around the table and I told the boys about the day they were born.
I told them about how, the day before, an early Sunday morning about 6:30, one of them kicked really hard and broke my water, and I found myself out of bed, standing there, trying to figure out what was going on.
I told them about soaking through two towels on the way to the hospital.
I told them about how they gave me a shot to ripen their lungs, if they'd stay inside for 72 more hours.
I told them about how that didn't work---that about the time I was ready to go to sleep that night, my body went into labor.
I told them about getting an epidural in the middle of the night and waking a couple+ hours later and throwing up my dinner, and then being sick for the next several hours, all the way through delivery.
I told them the day was just like today was: beautiful, blue skies, a gorgeous September afternoon, and they were born in a room with huge windows and lots of medical personnel on hand because they were early.
I told them how I was so tired that the ground seemed to be swimming beneath me as they wheeled me to my room for the night, and how they'd flown in a helicopter, only a couple hours old, the same one they watched in wonder as toddlers.
I told them that as soon as we left the hospital the next day, their dad and I went straight to the hospital they were at, so anxious to see them.
I told them about when they were first put together again, in the same bed, four days after birth. It was as tho they immediately recognized each other, snuggling up, nestling in. The comfort was something you could actually see.
We were totally smitten, and I remember I couldn't stop taking photos of them that night.
After breakfast, they went down to their bedroom and started putting together the lego sets their sisters had given them and I started making birthday cake.
We finished up school and my sister arrived with her kids. We filled a couple more bags for the party, I frosted the cake, we talked in the kitchen.
And then, the yard was full of children and we played Pictionary with sidewalk chalk on the driveway and Red Rover in the backyard, ate cake and ice cream and unwrapped presents.
(I must say here: I can only handle that many boys together for about an hour once a year. And I feel saintly for it. Wow.)
Later, after the party, the kids left with their dad, happy.
It was a good day.
I picked up the last pieces from the backyard and came inside. I looked at photos I took of them this morning---goofy, excited and spazzy because of the birthday love,
and posted one on IG and said this:
"They've been lighting up my life for 9 years today. I can't adequately articulate what I feel for them, but my stab at it tonight is this: they've humbled, encouraged, challenged and taught me; given me 9 years of stretching, laughter, love and tenderness; and filled my heart so full of beautiful experiences I wouldn't trade for anything I ever could have had in exchange. Happy Birthday to these two bright lights."
And then I went for a run in the dark, feeling peaceful and content.
And, here's the thing.
Something I have never questioned, not ever?
I yearned for every one of them.
They've made life more meaningful and substantive, rich and blessed.
And getting to be a part of their lives has been such a profound privilege in mine.
I've said that before, and I'll say it again.
Because, it really has.