Here you are, 9 years old and I’m late with your birthday message. I have no good excuse except that for a whole week I’ve been unable to move my fingers across the keyboard as rapidly as I need to in order to convey how wonderful you are.
I can’t remember turning 9 or being 9. The first birthday I remember is my 11th – complete with a chocolate layer cake with a huge 11 in yellow icing on top. “Don’t you want to put 11 candles on it?” my mother asked. Nope, I just want this. Two fat, fat lines of thick yellow icing running down the center of my chocolate iced cake. It looked less like a birthday cake and more like someone had cut a round chunk of asphalt out of the center of a no-pass highway. But at 11, I didn’t care about things like that. Details didn’t matter to me. Not at 11 and I’m sure not at 9.
But they matter to you.
Do they matter!
I was in Iowa for your birthday but called you bright and early last week. I wanted to make sure I talked to you before you left for the one story brick schoolhouse and what was sure to be a fun day of birthdayness for you. Your mom answered. I asked for the birthday girl. She laughed and went to find you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I shouted into the phone and then sang sang sang my heart out. Happy birthday to yooooou, happy birthday to yoooooou, happy BIIIIRTHday dear … Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, happy birthday to-ooo-oooooo yoooooooou!!!!
Hooray!!!! I shouted
Woop woop!!! I called
YAY Nena!!!! I said. And then I asked, How the heck does it feel to be NINE YEARS OLD??? Your answer? …
“I don’t know. I’m not 9 until 9:15 tonight, Jenné.”
What was I thinking? Of course you aren’t.
It’s no secret that you and I are different. And I guess that makes sense. Why would we be the same? We share very little – no genetic code, you got that from your mama and daddy. And we don’t live together in the same house for the majority of the year – your mom and Tommy get that privilege. So I guess it makes sense that we are different. And I’m sure, when people look at us, when they see us in pictures or out in public, or when they hear about us – the stepmom and the stepkid together, they probably only see the differences. They only see the ways we don’t mesh – that you like to match all your clothes and I like to grab whatever two socks first come out of the dryer. That you think every word of a book should be read… in order, and I like to skip around a bit to add interest to the story. That when we do crafts together I like everything to be unequal, on angles and whooper-jawed and you … well, let’s just say “keep it in a straight line, Jenne” is uttered more than once a day around our art table. People don’t always get us, Snoopy, have you noticed? People don’t understand the relationship we have. I guess that’s because some people have a harder time than we do with the whole step-parent thing. We’re pretty lucky. You have a fabulous mom, a terrific step-dad, and an amazing father and all of them have helped us be the very best stepmom and stepkid we can be together. But unfortunately, that’s unusual. We’re different than most. And people don’t understand. Maybe because they only see our differences and what we don’t have … and not what we share.
They don’t see us when I wake you up in the mornings during the summer and do the Good Morning Nena Dance.
They don’t come along in the car when we do our drives around town and in perfect synchronicity put on our sunglasses and begin nodding fitfully to the music on our favorite CD
They don’t watch us as we drive to Pizza 51 – every day – and sit together waiting for your giant slice of pizza and my ham and cheese sandwich and how we laugh every time the waiter brings our food and thinks the big pizza is for me and the little sandwich is for you … little do they know!
They don’t know about the secrets we share which I will NOT write about here because they are our secrets and ours alone
They don’t know about how we sometimes sneak ice cream in the middle of the day and then pretend later when your daddy gets home that we haven’t had any treats in sooooooooooo long so he’ll take us to get ice cream … AGAIN!
They didn’t see us when I was sick and bald and you would climb up in bed with me and we’d watch House Hunters together and try to guess which house would be picked
They don’t know how sometimes, early in the morning I’ll come upstairs to wake you and pull you into my lap and we’ll sit together for the longest time just rocking back and forth while I tell you how lucky I am you are in my life.
They don’t see, hear, know any of that … and that’s okay.
Because I know.
And you know.
So let others see how different we are from each other. Let them wonder about us and how it all works. Let them be confused when we are together and you talk about your mom or when they ask me where my daughter is today and I say, New Jersey. They don’t get it.
But I do.
I get it. I get that you are one of the best example I have that God loves me very much. And what other people think is normal just doesn’t matter to me. I’d rather have you, your daddy, your mom and Tommy than normal any day of the week.
Happy Birthday, 9 year (and nearly one week) old.
I love you,