Stross is my oldest son, and each year his birthday calls me to a time of remembrance, reconciliation, and renewal.
In 2008 I wrote an article for The Lutheran magazine about Stross' birthday and how I regard May 5 as a personal holy day. Also, in the preface to Involuntary Joy, I describe something divinely dynamic that happened to me on Stross' 5th birthday (yes, his golden birthday). I wrote how, on that day, I caught an unvarnished look at the reality of Stross' life - through his eyes - and realized that I wanted to be like him when I grew up.
Both the article and the book's preface were attempts to explain how Stross' life has changed mine forever.
I continue to make such attempts – like this vlog, for instance.
I want to share how, as the fifth day of May approaches each year, Stross' excitement over birthday preparations becomes palpable. I want you to know that birthday planning is practically a full-bodied experience for him, with every pore of his body oozing energy whenever he announces how many days remain until the calendar shows May 5.
I am not sure you can understand how our family relies on his constancy as much as we do the changing of the seasons – walking with him through exciting days of anticipation much like an advent calendar with substantially more days. For instance, we know that Stross will begin to talk about his birthday soon after the new year. We might be able to collectively hold him off from full planning mode until after Valentines' Day - maybe St. Patrick's Day - but once there are no commercial holidays on his radar, Stross locks on a May 5 target.
The full month of April is dedicated to plotting (what gifts to ask for), planning (where to spend the day), and even preening (what to wear).
Stross insists on appropriate birthday attire, so "preen" is definitely the word of choice. When choosing what to wear for his birthday, he sometimes tries things on to be sure they are birthday appropriate. In the past two years, the primary criteria has been his ability to wear a shirt with a number that corresponds to his age. In 2009, I was grateful to Peyton Manning for wearing jersey #18. This year I am thankful to the Garner Boy Scouts for being Troop #19. Also, because Stross will soon be joining that troop, this year's choice of attire is especially fortunate.
On every May 5 since 1991, I have privately spent part of "Stross' special day" evaluating my life and how I have been changed by motherhood. Stross' fifth birthday made that process even more intentional.
Motherhood: I may spend the full measure of my life attempting to explain what that means for me; and, how I define motherhood will forever be connected to how I define my relationship with Stross. I do not negate the reality of my separate relationship with Skye, my other, equally remarkable son. But long ago I understood that my maternal sensitivities had been shaped by Stross in ways that lie outside my human comprehension. For Skye, that means he has a much different kind of mom than what he might have had should his older brother arrived without complications.
I recognize the futility of attempts to explain things I cannot know because they never came to pass. Still, I feel compelled to try; every May 5 I feel pulled to the possibility of it. If only you could feel what courses through me. If only you could comprehend the fullness of it. I watched the vlog of me reading from Stross' baby book and desperately want to try to describe what makes me cry as I read.
I am not sad.
I am not disappointed.
I am not overwhelmed.
I am not defeated.
I am grateful.
I am in awe.
I am remembering.
I am renewed.
I am ... ah, yes ... I Am.
Despite all the words I typed above, I remain at a loss for words. That's probably why I chose to read you the story as I recorded it in Stross' baby book – a bizarre mixture of words too big for him to understand and a childlike recounting of things I want him to understand. As you listen, feel what you might then let me know what you felt.
Maybe what you feel will come close to communicating what I want you to know.
Amen. May it indeed be so.