It’s hard for me to believe my daughter will be 5 years old this week. It seems like just yesterday I was standing on the pier, two days from her scheduled delivery, waiting for her Dad to return from a month and a half at sea. Big bellied, swollen footed, with a 10 year old and thankfully my in-laws chasing after my 18 month old, I was more than ready for his arrival and our daughter’s as well. I fought the doctors to keep her in there long enough for my husband to get back, and once he crossed that brow, I felt a huge weight lifted and I knew all would be well.
The morning she was born, the skies were blue, the air was still, and it felt like the world was holding its breath in anticipation of her arrival. She would be my last child, and I wanted to remember everything about the day – how it felt, sounded, how things looked. All of it is so fresh in my mind still. I hope I never forget it.
But back to turning Five.
It happened when my middle son turned five and it’s happening again now – the delight and the agony I relive for reasons that I can only explain as guilt and sadness.
I still remember the smell and the sounds and the gloom of my tiny apartment. Setting up a birthday party at a tiny kitchen table for my oldest son who was about to turn five and whose life I was about to change forever. I had just left his Dad, my first husband, and moved us into this little two bedroom place. I put myself into a stupid amount of debt because I refused to cram us into a studio like we were “desperate”. I made good money – just not enough to furnish a new place in a hurry and move us out and still pay my mortgage AND a rent. What I was going through at that time is not important. It’s the memory of what my son was going through at the time that makes this birthday for his siblings difficult for me.
At HIS fifth birthday I remember him asking why grandma and grandpa were there but his Daddy wasn’t. I remember having to explain that we would live here now and he would still also live with his Dad at home without me. I remember the look on his face and the holes that formed in our hearts in that instant and how from that moment on he rarely if ever slept in his own bed for the years to come. That was “Five” for my oldest son. And he was never the same.
Granted, at 15 my son is still one of the most amazing humans I know – loving, kind, loyal, insightful, well-travelled, broad minded. But as his brother turned five and now as his sister turns five in this big, warm, beautiful home surrounded by the people who love her the most, I think of all the struggles she WON’T endure, and all the ones my oldest did.
Still, we will celebrate her five years on this planet with chocolate cake and presents and all of her favorite things. She will be lauded for the beauty she is, but it will still be there in the back of my mind – this memory of a dark time and three broken hearts, and how it is a miracle that we are ALL where we are today to remember and tell the story.