Ever since Eli came along four years ago, birthdays haven’t exactly been straightforward. It is one thing to be told how your birthday experience will transform once kids are on board, but it was entirely another experiencing how significant this change would be…
My first hint at the transition came four weeks after Eli was born. He had been readmitted to hospital after a worrying fever and I almost didn’t bring him into the Emergency Department, thinking that I was just being an over-reactive mother. One catheter, cannula, and lumbar puncture later (along with quite a few tears) it turned out that there was good reason to be concerned. At the time, it was suspected Meningitis and we became residents at the Childrens’ Ward at Casey Hospital for the next 11 days. One of those days was my birthday. Holding down a screaming baby while they tried and tried to find a tiny vein to insert the cannula into wasn’t exactly how I had pictured spending the day. We all recovered and thankfully Eli has zero memories from that traumatic time, but I can still picture that fluorescent room vividly.
The next memorable change was when Hudson was seven months old. He had recently broken free from his hip brace, the discarding of which I had pinned my hopes on to rescue us from the hours of crying and whingeing during the daylight hours. It didn’t change a thing and my mood was considerably darkened. For some irrational reason, I had subconsciously convinced myself that if Hudson just could start to say ‘mum’ (he had already been saying ‘dad’ with gusto for a number of weeks) on my birthday, it would make everything OK. He didn’t. With the emotional turmoil of my expectations being dashed in pretty much every way about how a ‘normal’ baby should behave, I was not in a great place for relishing the moment. On the drive up to the Yarra Valley for my Birthday Retreat, I vividly remember feeling numb as I was not in a place to process anything properly yet, and unsure of how to feel excited at the prospect of some time away. We did relax to some degree and managed to enjoy ourselves, yet I do reflect back on that entire period as one of turbulence and disquiet.
Last year was also a bit of a doozy. I was pregnant and feeling constantly ill as a result, Hudson was sick with Tonsillitis and I commenced the morning with an hour long wait at the doctors with an exhausted and upset little boy. The day didn’t really improve until that evening when we shared a Lebanese banquet in Fitzroy with a small group of close friends. It was a great lesson in unstated and unrealistic expectations that the day could be somehow transformed and magical when you are pregnant and taking care of sick and emotional toddlers.
Then yesterday happened. Actually it started the day before that with a spur of the moment seizing of a chance discovery that my all time favourite artist, Katie Noonan (formerly of the band George) was performing an intimate gig at the Cellar Bar on Friday night and showcasing her new album, Transmutant. Tickets were booked, parents called and we were on our way to St Kilda. The Cellar Bar had such an evocative atmosphere, 1920s to the hilt, with fringed lamp lighting, velvet curtains, plush decorative maroon, gold and navy carpet and mirrored pillars throughout.
After finding out Katie woudn’t be appearing until 10pm, we wandered over to Mr. Wolf for an Amaretto Sour and a Little Creatures Pale Ale, lingering on the heated seats and enjoying the rare chance of a conversation without interruptions.
When we returned, we took up a perch by the wall close to the stage and settled in. The performance was beautiful and so creative, particularly considering the instruments were limited to two keyboards, a looping recorder, a guitar and a log. Her voice is flawless, melodic and haunting and the experience took me right back to the me I was in my first year after graduating high school. Driving my little yellow Cruze, singing at the top of my lungs, lugging my guitar to cafe gigs and song-writing furiously (in between marginally attending university to study law, of course!). In some ways it is difficult to reconcile that carefree girl with the ‘me’ of today, but in other ways, she is still with me completely. Neither us or my parents are built for the late nights anymore, so we had to head home before the end of the performance to relieve them from babysitting duties. It did strike me as humorous that the 13 year old boy, Miro, whose soprano voice was featured on the album outlasted us with his attendance at the gig.
The actual birthday was incredible as well. I was greeted with enthusiastic hugs and handmade cards after a luxurious sleep in until 8am (yes, me in all my onesie glory probably in the midst of giving Dave a death stare for taking photos!).
Then we shared a breakfast of bacon, mushrooms and eggs on sourdough toast topped off with a glass of Prosecco!
Dave took the boys shopping and returned with the Transmutant album (I’m being strangely drawn back to CDs at the minute) and we soon loaded into the car to return to The Piggery Cafe in Sherbrooke. We shared late lunch/afternoon tea with my family, sampling a number of hors d’oeuvres and sweets. The company was cheery and lovely and the kids relished being able to spend time with so many of their favourite people at once. Hudson, Dave and Pa managed to construct an complex tower out of the blue foam pieces and I’m still not quite sure who had more fun!
Dave and I concluded the evening by sampling a buttery Chardonnay (Sir Jones) and a lingering Shiraz, along with The President Camembert, green marinated olives, spicy salami and wafer thins. We played The Ball Game and enjoyed meaningful conversation about Tribe, life, people that we have disappointed, dreams, prayer and the kids.
When I gave Ivy her dreamfeed, I was struck by the realisation that on my next birthday she will be 18 months old. I held her sleeping body and drank her in, realising again how wonderful this life is and how swiftly it passes. Birthdays may not run like clockwork anymore, but the beautiful chaos and messy memories that are created when the kids are along for the ride is simply priceless. I wouldn’t exchange that for the cosmos.