A Belatedly Happy Birthday

I spent a lot of my birthday last week thinking about my kids’ birthdays. If that makes me a hopeless sap, so be it. I suppose it’s partly due to the fact that theirs are the only birth days I remember so vividly. But also because so much of me wasn’t born until they were.

So I peeked under their shirts at their belly buttons and gently poked my fingers into their doughy soft skin, telling them they were once connected to me right there. This of course they didn’t understand, but it hardly mattered because they were engulfed in giggles from me tickling their tummies.

I held my younger son against me and felt his hair on my cheek as he lay his head on my shoulder. I felt how long his body is now, how he stretches so far beyond the stomach he was once curled up inside. Later I did the same with his older brother, who is so impossibly big I cannot fathom the fact that he was just 7 pounds the day I first held him.

It’s funny that for most of my life I equated February 13th with the day I was born. But now it’s February 13, and June 2, and March 10. I think if we are really lucky, we are forever being born again, our eyes opening ever wider to life as it unfolds.

On our birthdays Chris and I often play that memory game, the one couples who’ve been together forever like to play. We search our collective memory for what we did on that day last year to make it special. And what we did 5 years ago, and 10 years ago, and 15. Where were we living then? Did we eat at our favorite restaurant? Was that the year you bought me that super-expensive shirt I wore twice? Which birthday did I spend in the hospital since you were sick?

This year one of us wondered aloud what we were doing seven years ago on my birthday. Neither of us could really remember any specifics, and we mumbled that was probably because it wasn’t the best time for us and we’d both rather block it out. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and seven years ago we were beginning to tumble down.

But half a world away, on Feb. 13, 2004, this little girl was born. Aniska Victorien was born into poverty in Haiti to parents who work when they can find it, which isn’t often. She couldn’t have imagined, nor could we, that our paths would cross nearly seven years later when something tugged at me to click on her picture on a website filled with similar faces of children in similarly desperate situations. And the first thing I noticed, apart from the dusty knees and scuffed shoes, was her birthday: Feb. 13, 2004.

My birthday girl.

We didn’t know seven years ago, when we were wallowing in our own rut, that God had just given us a little miracle, one He knew we wouldn’t be ready to find and accept for several more years (and two kids of our own). I smile at the new memory that creates.

So on my birthday this year I spent a little time writing to Aniska, introducing us as her new sponsors through Compassion International, and wishing her a happy birthday. I told her how beautiful she is. If I get a letter back, I will consider it a belated birthday present. But in reality, this opportunity to impact her life is the coolest gift.

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