Birthday week in Patches Of Light land and all things are Halloweeny. Our joy bringer was born 3 days before the holiday yet at age 7, this is the first celebration of him that is utilizing the seasonal theme. It was supposed to be easier and cheaper and in some ways that has proven true. Yet when all around, in every store and on all social media, I am assailed with decoration ideas and this quick easy set up and that especially cool spooky idea, I am finally ready to admit that I may have gone a bit overboard. The basement is becoming a haunted house, each room upstairs is readied for activities such as pumpkin painting or glow in the dark bowling or mini pumpkin tic tac toe. Reminding myself that all of these decorations will stow nicely away and be used for years to come, like Christmas decor, has fueled my desire to create more toilet paper rolls with eye cut outs and creepy ghosts out of every old white sheet I own. Chef remarked last night that maybe we had gone too far, that he is only 7, maybe we are spoiling him. Silly man, of course we are.
I have been leaning into an idea, a foreign concept to me, one that blew my mind when I first heard it. I was told that to God, I am worthy of celebrating. Of course I had heard comments like this before but it sank in differently this time, my soul was open to the words and the corresponding affection that just such a celebration would bring. What would it mean to believe that one is worth celebrating, not for achievements, not for a report card, not for wealth, but merely for existing? I have always hated my birthday, hated the attention it brings to me. Attention is dangerous to one who maintains a hyper-vigilance, scouring my surroundings for potential abusers. I avoid the limelight, I hate crowds. But what if I claimed my safety in God and believed that I was of value because God chose me to be in this place in this time? Heady stuff. As I work on really integrating this idea, along comes my Plum’s birthday. My Plum whom I adore and cherish, the child upon who’s every word I hang. I watch him fall asleep, I listen for his first steps in the morning as he rises. He brings my joy and I shower my love upon him, a safe receptacle who doesn’t judge me. Maybe we are spoiling him or maybe we are telling this child with his checkered history of adults in and out of his life that we believe 100% that he is worth celebrating.
In years past, when Lego was the theme or dump trucks in the dirt was the direction we went, we didn’t go so crazy. By celebrating the holiday with his big day, we get a twofer, and I know in the future all of these spiders and webs and skulls will be used. Seriously, the odds are in my favor. Post-Halloween sales might help us round out our collection of spooky creatures, in case we have begun a new tradition of a haunted basement. After all, he IS going to be 8 next year and my God is this child worth celebrating. My anticipation for his big day may be a bit over the top, as a grandma I really ought to be more accustomed to birthdays and children aging. But this child is special.
Thoughts of his beginnings are never far from my mind, all the days of anticipating his arrival that were spent coming to know his mama. Plum began as a yes when everything pointed to no. A disconnected father, a young mother challenged by the pregnancy. We watched as she painted a little dresser Chef found for her, readied a nursery here in our home, moved the crib about a million times to get it just right. We had many bumpy years of moving that crib out as she sought to begin life her own and then back in again as she needed a reset. Finally he moved into a bed and his room has stayed stable since, a place to call his own regardless of other changes in his life. Under his bed he stores treasures, one earring or a necklace from my dresser, a lightbulb, rocks, my Lord so many rocks, the collars from beloved pets. Not long ago a friend offered an old military truck which has become the perfect treasure chest for a little boy to contain his hoard. On days of greater anxiety, I find him sorting through it, as if the bits and pieces of his story calm him, center him. He goes through it less and less, my measurement for his inner tranquility.
“Well, Plum, what are your thoughts on year six?” I asked as he was pooping and I was hovering outside the open door. I don’t care what he says, he isn’t all that grown yet if he still wants me around for that event. But I digress. “It was boring.” This was the year of completing his kindergarten, beginning first grade, those seem rather significant to me. Nope. Boring. “Well, what about the summer, you played almost every day outside with A, in the mud.” Yeah he conceded, that was pretty okay but mostly it was boring. Hmm, I was stuck. I thought it was a fantastic year, he learned to read, he exploded his math abilities, he can even tie his own shoes, for heaven’s sake (actually we just checked that off the list a couple weeks ago, but I swear he conquered it on the first try when I showed him those bunny ears.) He can barely tolerate looking back though, he said, “Six is just so young.”
He is right, as most often he is when we have these talks. But what he doesn’t know is that seven is still not grown. Anyone who comes racing off the bus with their shoe untied, cracking up only to tell me that it fell off as he was trying to get up from his seat at our stop. Apparently his buddy picked it up, held it to his face, and performed a disgusting act of maleness. “I swear, Gran, I heard him SNIFF!” Falling on the ground laughing again, backpack spilling Pokemon keychains and bouncy balls on the leaf covered lawn, he shattered the silence of my day with his giggles and delight. He is young enough still that he holds on to the sweet funny stories and events, he allows the tough things to roll off, to sizzle away like a droplet of water in a hot pan. It isn’t that he has such a perfect life that he knows no troubles, oh Lord no. I am confident that it is exactly because he has known trauma that he is resilient and determined to laugh when he can. I am at my utmost silly, I relinquish all dignity, ever willing to play the fool, just to elicit his laughter. Plum smiling means angels singing. When the angels sing, I know God is near. Truthfully, I know He has always been near to this child.
During this birthday week in Patches of Light land, I cannot help but reflect on not just who he is becoming but who has walked with him during the previous 12 months, who has shaped this year to help create this child. If ever there was evidence of the power the village plays in a child’s life, Plum is it. His village rose up around him, he was prayed over while still in the womb. Our church has been beyond faithful in loving and supporting this child as well as his mother when she needed and was receptive. (His father has never left the prayers of the same community, God is walking that path with us, one with more twists and turns.) Plum occupied the front row closest to the praise band in order to dance and wiggle during the music portion of each service, he walks in as though he is the mayor of church. He feels ownership, as he should, as we all should. He knows comfort there, why wouldn’t he, these are his people. He glows with the love and support that surround his every step, he is unaware at his ages but one day he will realize that all those adults in his life were his prayer warriors, were placed there by God to lift him up out of his situation to become a man with a purpose in the kingdom. He will bring joy to many, not just his gran.
My joy bringer is 7 years old today, the baby I rocked to sleep, weaned from the bottle, potty trained, taught to sleep in a big boy bed and then to sleep all night. I was with him on his first day of preschool as well as kindergarten, I haven’t missed a milestone yet. But it is all the in betweens, the moments we talk amongst the bushes looking for insects or yes, even while he is pooping, that I truly treasure. This child carries my heart with him where ever he goes, as he grows. Today we will turn our home over to his many friends as they celebrate him. I will be listening for his giggles, confirmation that all the effort communicates to him, we know he is worthy. As the sun begins to rise, the early cold snap has brought flurries that catch my eye and chill my hands. My soul is warmed though, as I take these last few quiet moments before cutting apples for dipping into caramel and hanging streamers and blowing up balloons. My soul is quiet and peaceful, as I celebrate fully this child who God is sharing with me. My joy bringer, who helps me hear the angels sing.