I vacillated: birthday or no birthday.
There is a community of women in my life, "The Tuesdays," who said to me in January: "Tricia, we get that you are drowning. We understand you cannot leave your home. We just want to be with you. We need to be in your space. We're coming over on Tuesday night with coffee and dessert. If you need to go to bed, you can, but we need to be where you are."
They have come over every Tuesday night for seven months. Two of them chime in via text or conference call from Arkansas and Chicago.
These same girls said to me, "We get that your birthday is hard. We get that your anniversary is harder. We choose to celebrate your birthday on your anniversary, and you can sit quietly while we party, but we're partying. Because we love you. And because Robb loved you. Stop the ridiculous talk of skipping your birthday. We won't have another word of it."
And celebrate they did. They brought me right into the mix.
And on my birthday, on the actual day, I chose a route different from any year before. I set aside the loud, the splashy, the pack-it-in. I escaped for the day with my Soul Sister, and we talked (or didn't) all day long.
My children sandwiched the day with donuts in the morning and ice cream cake at night.
They gave me their cherished gift: a Cinderella doll. "Because girls like dolls and Mommy is a girl." You really can't argue with logic like that.
They had dropped hints along the way. It's a good thing my birthday arrived, or I do believe they may have opened it themselves.
"Mommy, see this box? There isn't a doll in it."
"Mommy, I'll give you a clue. Your present is a girl, and she's your favorite princess in the Cinderella story, and her dress is blue."
Welcome to our home, princess in blue. You are an icon of thoughtfulness and all that makes sense to gift-giving little boys.
As soon as I opened her, Tyler said, "May I hold her yet?" He's learning how to take care of the things that belong to a girl he loves.
And then my mailbox began to spill. Packages, letters, cards, gifts, surprises. I have to take a small child with me to the mailbox to help with the task of carrying the mail into our home.
You have sent gifts from near and far: brightest flowers, frothy scarves, bracelets of every color. Oh, how you bless me.
And I thank you.
My birthday would happen, with or without me.
I chose to step onto the merry-go-round;
I chose to join the party too.
It sparkled in spite of me. I sparkled in light of it.
"Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a successful exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone, 'Thank you for being you.' On a birthday, we do not say, 'Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.' No, we say: 'Thank you for being born and being among us.'"
~ Henri Nouwen, Here and Now