This year, Opal was old enough to know her birthday was approaching days before it actually arrived. What's more, she was old enough to know what a birthday is, having sung to multiple family members over the phone. She has also celebrated birthdays for many of her stuffed animals using a a shoebox with a gingham napkin and an LED candle, to switch off at the appropriate time of having been blown out. Cued by phrases like "How old is Opal going to be?" and "Who's birthday is coming up?" she learned to reply with gusto: Two ones! and Opal's birthday!
We brought up her new wooden kitchen from downstairs while she was sleeping the night before, something that stirred in me a hearty dose of sentimentality for how many times my parents had done the same for me. We covered it in a sheet with ribbons and bows. Colorfully wrapped gifts from Ama—wooden foods and pans, a pre-sliced felt pizza—were arranged artfully beneath it. Ama, who had flown in from Ohio for the occasion, woke early to be ready when the birthday girl emerged from her bedroom with feety-pajamas and bedhead. The adults of the house were giddy as hell that morning and nearly pounced on Opal's bedroom door when sounds of intelligent life emerged from the baby monitor.
Jesse and I went in together, singing Happy Birthday and tugging on one another like schoolkids hopped up on soda.
She took one look at us and started to cry.
In spite of this minor blip in the start to the day, it didn't take long for her to get a feel for this whole birthday festivity thing.
Blueberry pancakes? Well sure!
Gift after gift with my name on it? Sign me up!
We spent the whole morning playing Cafe' Opal in her new kitchen while sipping tea and coffee (ours was real, hers pretend) and listening to a stream of perky and shockingly nostalgic—The Muppets, Mary Poppins—children's music on Pandora. Occasionally Opal took a break from one thrilling game to climb into another one.
There are times when it feels like such a luxury to have no place to be. This was surely one of those times. We were on the floor in our pajamas, all of us, playing for hours until it occurred to someone that lunch may be a good idea. Three generations interacting as peers in the world of play and imagination, negotiating menu options for Clifford and Golla and discussing table settings in earnest. We cooked, brewed, arranged, conversed (with each other as well as through the stuffed-animals) as purposefully as though we were planning Thanksgiving for a score of friends and family.
We joined forces with our wonderful Boulder family—Grammy, Grampy, Alex, Will, Jamie, Dave and Lucy the doggy—to continue the festivities in the afternoon after Opal's nap. Opal got kid-friendly musical instruments and scarves from Grammy and when the music of Johnny Cash and Ray Charles filled the room, an impromptu dance party immediately ensued. We later went out to play in the neighbor's leaves and test the new Strider bike Opal got from Grampy! The day eventually concluded with cupcakes and ice cream, both firsts for Opal even though she'd been talking about ice cream for weeks before her birthday. She didn't so much enjoy its coldness, however, so she saturated the cupcake in the sweet, melted puddle it made on the plate. (I used to do that!) A woman of refined tastes, to be sure.
The next morning, we celebrated further with some of Opal's little friends who have birthdays very close to hers.
The weekend was a veritable love-fest. We sang, we ate, we danced, we played. We all-out roistered in honor of this little girl who has brought so much joy, delight, spontaneity and technicolor vision to our lives. It's as if, upon arrival, she tore down the drapery from all our eyes and declared Good Morning to you all!
And she does it again and again.