“Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!!”
The sounds trickle up from the basement where the twins are humming along as they train their newly opened toys to repeat what they say. I look at Saathi who is sitting beside me agonizing over taxes and smile. We are behind a desk scattered with papers. It is mid afternoon and the air is heavy with the promise of snow.
The afternoon slogs on, taxes get done, Laddu wakes from her nap and doesn’t want to let go of me. Amma is on the sofa, a book by her side, iPad on her lap. I can feel the weight of the to-do list bearing down on me.
“It’s our birthday,” the twins proclaim and twirl as I call them to dinner. I squeeze them and kiss the tops of their heads before I serve chappathis and a cabbage stew. They eat mostly in silence, a barely repressed excitement leaking through squeals of laughter. They can’t wait to go to bed.
The clock shows 7:45 and I am already tucking them in and kissing them good night as I whisper Happy Birthdays before I close each door. I rock Laddu, patting her back and singing a lullaby under my breath. The sounds of birds tweeting has me scowling as I confiscate toys and put them back to bed. “See you when you turn a year older” I say and close the door.
Another half hour passes before Laddu succumbs to sleep and I tiptoe downstairs. I am on the sofa next to amma parsing the kids horoscopes and idly browsing for cake recipes. I’d promised them banana bread. I look up and notice we are out of bananas.
The pressure to mark the day bears on me and I pick up the phone and invite family over. I go over the mental checklist. Gifts? Check. Cake? To be baked tomorrow. Party? Does calling family over mean a party? Check. New clothes? Check.
I relax, somewhat.
Over the years, I have struggled with trying to balance meaningful celebrations with giving in to the trappings. This year, the struggle has been extra hard. I want to go the whole nine yards. Cake, friends, decorations. I also want them to understand that birthdays are not just about gifts. So, I compromise. We do a mom-daughter date of sorts at a painting place and come home clutching canvas Unicorn prints. I cave in and buy the Shopkins they have been raving about for weeks now. I bake instead of buying the cake. We will have a quiet celebration in the evening with just family to mark the day.
I take tons of pictures. I write exhaustively trying to chronicle the wonder that growing children are. I go back and read the notes I have written them over the past few years and realize how much they have changed and how they have stayed the same essentially.
I count the hours down. I sneak into their bedrooms and press my lips to the top of their heads. I lie in bed, restless. I draw hearts on their cards and scribble love notes. I am as ready as can be.