It was there, set carefully between the gift bags. A handful of assorted, beloved wooden nuts and bolts. One treasured Nepali coin. And a stack of homemade cards in brightly colored envelopes. Proof of their love.
Saturday had been a flurry of drawing, a whirlwind of, “b-I-r-th-d-ay?” and “Does this say, ‘Jack,’?” “What? It’s tomorrow? Can I make him a present?” Now here it was Sunday morning, and they were all pressing in, eager to see his reaction, itching for their turn to be twirled and bounced during the required birthday dance.
And right there, with most of my people in their pjs, gathered around the couch and giggling, I prayed that not one of them would ever forget what it was that compelled them, at this moment, to want to be part of celebrating the life of one of their own.
I prayed that they’d remember, when they are tired from being up all night with a sick baby and they are worried about making the house payment, that it is May 22. Jack’s birthday. I prayed that they’d pick up the phone, or fire off a text, or if they happen to be near, they’d put the snotty, miserable baby in the car seat for a nap and drive over to hug their brother’s neck.
I prayed that when I am gone, nothing beyond the love that painstakingly spelled out “happy birthday” on purple construction paper will be needed to keep them tied, in some way, to one another. That as my husband and I grow old, we will watch them develop and nurture their relationship beyond us, and outside of the big picture of nine siblings and two parents.
I can’t make it so. I can’t orchestrate their interactions, can’t water the soil of their relationships. I can only stand back and hope that Jack always scoops Birdie into a bear hug, or that Simon always values Mary Hannah’s input. I can only pray that this family will one day be strong not because of geography or my will, but because of love.