Friday, September 09, 2005

Happy Birthday to William

William turned fourteen today. For some reason that seems like a big deal. He's no longer a kid. He's not even thirteen, which as every parent knows, means a kid is not a teenager, but just a wannabe teenager. They're just "trying on" being a teen at thirteen. But by fourteen even the late bloomers start to notice things like that girls have breasts, how embarrassing their parents have become, and how many more months until they can get their driver's permits.

Somehow William's birthday got lost in the busyness of late summer this year. Okay, okay. OKAY! William's birthday almost ALWAYS get's lost in the busyness of late summer. It's an incredibly hectic time of year for our family. Most years though, I can pull something off at the last minute. This year it was difficult for a number of reasons. We bought his gifts ahead of time and since he helped pick out his main gift (a new television) and I got caught trying to smuggle in the other gift (a body pillow), he had nothing to open on his birthday. Too, it was a school day for his buddies and a work day for his dad (who had to leave by 1 pm), so we had to do whatever we could as a family to celebrate in the morning. Not the typical birthday celebrating hours.

It worked out, in a crazy sort of way.

Jeff made a cake for William last night after he came home from work. Somehow this has become a tradition in our family. Jeff the NONbaker, the man who can burn water and can't taste the difference between cucumbers and strawberries, is in charge of the childrens' birthday food. This particular cake had a huge depression in the middle of it as Jeff didn't think to check to see if it was actually done when the timer went off. He just took it out of the oven and walked away before he could watch the middle sink into a puddle of something between batter and cake - think a gritty puddinglike substance. I came across it about fifteen minutes later and insisted he put it back in to finish cooking, which he did, but it still had a distinct "hill and valley" shape to the top. That is, until he frosted it. As I overheard him saying this morning, "nothing a little (or a LOT) of frosting can't fix."

Mom, papa, and dog all descended on the still sleeping child... er, TEEN, to wake him this morning to a family cuddle and off key singing of "Happy Birthday to you!" William commented that there were no gifts to open and Jeff dashed off for, cough, cough, uhm, "candles - yes, I forgot the candles. I'll be right back."

An hour later, William and I now more awake, Jeff dashed back in the door (Jeff doesn't really walk anywhere - he's either sitting, or dashing, even on a less exciting day. On a day like this his dashing is downright hyper), hands full of packages. And candles. And balloons, which the two "boys" set about blowing up and taping to anything in the livingroom that didn't move.

Jeff decided we'd take the birthday boy out for breakfast, insisting we take the gifts and cake with us. On the way out the door I peeked in the gift bags and realized Jeff had bought William toys. Yes,TOYS. Funny, but sad. He might as well just have given William a birthday card that was signed "Please, please, please don't grow up, stay a boy forever! Love, Papa" I looked at William and he saw the look on my face and then he peeked inside the bags and I said quietly "You can return it all if you want."

We ate breakfast at one of our regular coffee shops. Jeff tried to find Happy Birthday on the jukebox, but couldn't, so he played a bunch of other songs and then explained WHY each of them were good substitutes for the birthday song. Jeff hadn't brought enough candles for the cake (he only had 12), so one of the waittresses found us some extras. They had obviously been at the bottom of a drawer for awhile and I started scraping the worst of the dust off them but Jeff said they weren't radioactive. William grabbed them and stabbed them dirty ends and all into one edge and said "Don't eat that piece mom."

We spent most of the time reminscing about William's childhood and relating the youngest memories we could remember from our own pasts. Jeff gave William his cards and gifts and loudly urged him to open them up. William sweetly, so so sweetly, set aside the luxury of being embarrassed and opened them up, IN PUBLIC, and let his dad enjoy playing with them. He might be fourteen, but he is old enough to know how to be kind.

I wanted to save William from the added embarrassment of having to blow out his candles in public, in part because we were all too stuffed from our meal to actually eat cake, mostly because William and I had another eye-to-eye moment when we both realized that Jeff had bought the the kind of candles that you CAN'T BLOW OUT. We'd just convinced Jeff to let us take the cake back home when the waittress came up and insisted they be allowed to join in the fun. The other waittress and waiter were coming around the bend in the aisle. We knew when we were beat and sat back down. The waittresses happily lit the candles and the waiter, the SIL of a family friend, STOOD on top of an empty booth and said in a booming voice to the entire restaurant...


And everyone did. They sang and they laughed and they applauded. And William managed the entire thing without turning even the palest shade of red. Even more surprising, he managed to turn the surprise on Jeff and somehow managed to blow all the candles out in one full swoop and they STAYED out. We offered everyone a slice of cake, but folks rubbed their bellies and said either they were stuffed from their meals or were saving room for the meals they had just ordered.

Back home, William pretty much got his way. He spent a good fifteen minutes lighting and relighting the candles, perfecting his technique, burning them down to little puddles of color in the frosting, and filling the house with smoke. I "forgot" to nag him to do any school work today. Jeff indulged him in a game of Risk before he had to go off to work. And I promised to make up for the toys by buying him something he'd actually enjoy and use. He asked if I'd go to and see about buying a video game called Mercenaries.

Mercenaries??? Yep, he's fourteen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, kids sure do grow up fast don't they?? Now, I thought William was going to try high school this year--did he decide to keep on homeschooling instead? My niece decided to stay home this year (she's 16) and I'm homeschooling her along with Dylan.

2:46 AM  

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