I was reading something this past month, and I came across the word ebullient. In its context, the writer was surely meaning enthusiastic, but there was something about that word – a word I had not stumbled across in ages – that made me think of you. I thought of it again when I came across a photo of you dancing in your sister’s leotard, and yet again when you were marching through the house in your ladybug headband and flouncy red skirt and teeny tiny silver high heeled shoes. Last night I listened to you play in the next room over, talking to yourself and your toys for over an hour while your father unpacked from the weekend and I worked on treats for your party. Your tiny silver airplane was teaching your Luigi car how to fly, and you urged him on in your best airplane-voice. Soon enough, that miniature little Fiat was soaring through the dining room alongside your model airplane, and your voice broke into a congratulatory singsong. “Fly over to your local library, fly over to your local library, fly over to your local library…and get a book, get a book.” I laugh at the words and the songs that come out of your mouth, I laugh until my sides hurt and the tears form in the corner of my eyes. You know that you are funny, but you are at your funniest when you think no one is watching or listening, when you aren’t even trying at all.
This morning you ran into my room and saw the single invitation to your party sitting on my bed where I had photographed it earlier in the morning.
Mom, mom! Is this my invitation? Is this mine?
Yes, that’s your invitation.
Phew, great. It finally got here! Now I can go to my own birthday party!
To think that we wouldn’t invite you, to think that we could even imagine a place being as much fun without you.
Occasionally you still let me sing to you at night, although you rarely sit still in my arms while I do it. Tonight you request “You Are My Sunshine”, and I think of you as sunshine, but maybe not. I think you are that rainbow, those rainbows you chose to celebrate your last birthday with. You can roll in with such a rumbling thunder, one that crescendos in an instant, with flashes of lightning wit and stinging bite. But then you are this effervescent rainbow of sparkling colors, you are ebullient, you are irrepressible.
You start half of your stories with the phase “You guys are never going to believe this, you are just never, ever going to believe this…” and then you tell us to hurry up and get to the wedding we are driving towards because you know where the very best seats in the place are, because you went there last Wednesday – with your class – from four states away – and so you know, you know it all. After the wedding is over, and we are driving to the reception, you tell us that you’ve never been to a wedding before, so that makes this your first wedding and you loved it so much, and also, that kiss was fake, you think, probably. We laugh all the way to that reception, where you march in with the two matchbox cars you’ve wrapped carefully in three layers of scotch tape – a gift for the bride and groom – and you set them on top of the pile of presents. Who wouldn’t want a set of cars for themselves? With the right words, and a little song, you can teach them to fly, and pick out library books and fill every corner of any house with ebullient chatter and joy.
You went to bed quietly tonight, an early birthday gift for me. But then a few minutes later you were up again, standing at your door, whisper-shouting down to me.
Mom, mom. One more thing. Am I four yet? Is it that time yet? I think I already slept a little and it might be time.
I headed back upstairs and broke the truth to you, and you sighed loudly before shuffling back to bed, before flopping back on your pillow and pulling your covers to your chin and then saying
The last days are always the longest days.
I close my eyes for a second, and pray that this will always be true – the slowing, slowing, slowing of speed before you race ahead.
Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet girl.