Angel Wings and Herb Tea

Life after loss; healing through creativity, writing and art

1 Comment

Birthday boys

Its birthday time in our house. September is busy that way. Leo and his dad, Lily and her dad, Leo and Tansy’s granny, Fred and Lily’s step mum…yeah its complicated…..and busy!

We kick off with Leo and Hugh, who share the 8th and a love of boats and fishing. So guess what we did…grabbed the canoe, and a kayak for Fred and went out to sea again.

We had a late start. The birthday table for starters…laid out lovingly the night before with cloths and flowers, candles and presents, paintings and cards. Then there was the bowl of raspberries dropped on our doorstep by our lovely neighbour Ruth which inspired me to whip up an enormous batch of banana pancakes with cream. That took some time. Then there was the birthday song, composed by Fred and me while wandering round  the National museum Wales  in the summer holidays and performed live in the sitting room. And did I mention we didn’t get up until..hmm about nine o clock?

Finally the vessels were strapped on the car and, as the veteran of one whole sea canoe trip I felt pleasantly excited rather than mildly terrified like last time.

The sea was calm and clear as a green marble and we canoed hungrily from Paignton to Brixham for birthday pasties with five turnstones and several gulls.

And birthday cake…

There were no fish biting this time, and the youngest birthday boy nearly slumbered over his fishing line. His newly acquired five years (is that right? My youngest child five?) not enough to carry him through the long paddle home!

It’s always strange to have the two boys share their birthday, working out a cake suitable for both, staying up late to finish paintings and birthday stories, trying to find a day suitable and acceptable to both. So far Leo has not ever had a party, his birthday activities centre around crabbing and water based activities, fishing puppet shows, boat shaped cakes etc.

It’s also a strange time because there is always the knowledge of Lily’s birthday just days away and what do we do about that?

I usually try to put it out of my mind while I prepare for Hugh and Leo, and then there are the days that follow when dove and angel cards start to appear  in the post and I start to think about the horse cake I made when she was two.

But for Saturday it was the boy’s day

And two of these….seals for those may struggle to see…made their day!



The Birthday

Tomorrow it is my youngest son’s birthday, and his daddy’s too. Four years ago, at seven thirty in the morning, drowsily propped up in my bed, I nursed my new little son and ate the birthday brownies which arrived in the post for Hugh, thanks to lovely Aunty Alice. Two weeks early, Leo took us all by surprise, but I finally had four children! My older three, then aged two, six and eight munched and cooed and cuddled as we all wallowed in that delicious, sublime morning.

Later Hugh’s mum called to wish him Happy Birthday, blissfully unaware of her new grandson. Hugh asked her to guess what his favourite birthday present was.
‘Was it the screwdriver I sent you dear?’ she asked innocently.

How could anything compare to the mysterious wonder of the new little soul arrived in our midst? Hugh will love his favourite birthday present forever!

But will the gifts Leo and Hugh receive tomorrow still hold any interest or value in even four months time? Possibly, but possibly not..they are just things. Sometimes presents just seem like so much stuff to me. I cannot deny that there is a magic in witnessing a child’s excitement and joy on opening a special birthday gift and taking their time to explore and love it and make it their own. Where is the magic however, in watching a child rip through a mountain of presents, discarding them as soon as they are open?

The giving of gifts becomes a meaningless gesture. It provides a momentary rush of excitement for the child, only to be replaced by the odd uncomfortable feeling of being overwhelmed, overexcited and slightly ‘full.’ Unable to interpret the discomfort, the only remedy seems to be for the child to ask for more and feel anguish when there is not.

I love celebrating birthdays and I do always buy a present for my kids, but just one, a special one. Reducing presents coming in from outside is an ongoing process but increasingly being met with understanding.

What makes a birthday meaningful?
Ceremony and ritual sound a little formal, and we’re certainly not solemn around birthdays, but doing certain things together seems to nourish the birthday girl (or  boy) more than a heap of presents. At breakfast I make sure that the table is set with cloths, flowers and candles and make a throne for the  special person to sit on. A nice breakfast is important.. tomorrow it’s croissant..shh!

A tradition I’m planning to start is for everyone else to think of one thing they love or appreciate about the birthday celebrant.  Depending on the age this can cause a bit of squirming but a birthday is a chance to focus with love and gratitude on one person and make that person feel special. Cuddles and stories are good too! And then there’s the party!
I’m sure other people have beautiful rituals they follow for their kid’s birthdays.. have you? I’d love to hear ideas (sensitive and loving) on avoiding the swamp effect of gifts from lovely well meaning relatives too.