As you likely already know, May 5th is a family holiday in our household; this year was no exception. Our resident honoree–Stross Newcom–planned the day (which even began a day early), and then we all focused on what it meant to spend the day honoring him simply by joining in life as he lives it.
This year Mark's parents, David and Carolyn, included a stop for Stross' birthday on their spring travel itinerary, making his 19th birthday even more special for him.
It's always fascinating to view life from Stross' perspective. Well, as much as it is possible to do so. This year I witnessed how he wrestled with variables out of his control. He had planned his birthday down to the last detail, but he couldn't have foreseen this:
• Dropped messages. The emcee at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres evidently didn't get the message it was Stross' birthday, so Stross didn't get to hear his name announced at the beginning of the show - just as he has witnessed it happening so many times for others. And, yes, I made the arrangements when we bought the tickets and called to double check from the hotel, hours before the show. Something happened, and he was bummed.
• Unseasonable weather. He chose the Minnesota Zoo over other things on his list - indoor things like MagicQuest or Underwater Adventures at the Mall of America. He enjoys zoo animals; and therefore, the zoo is a magical (and thankfully a very accessible) place. So off we went into uncommonly cold spring temperatures: 40-degree weather! Stross was undaunted. The rest of us were grateful that large portions of the zoo are indoors or on display – in a comfortable way – outdoors.
• Uncooperative animals. Unlike in his memories of an earlier birthday spent at the Minnesota Zoo (2007), Stross' 2010 birthday had to occur without a dolphin show (as the volunteer explained it "two geriatric and one pregnant dolphin"). After I explained what "geriatric" meant, Stross faced the reality of fashioning a new memory (one that also had to have no bird show, either). He rose to the occasion showing the same amount of annoyance his mother might have. For all the genetic deviations that occurred as he formed in the womb, my ability to complain while pivoting into the future seems to have infused his DNA - at least I recognized and identified with his personal angst.
• Dizzying heights. Finally, Stross traded staying at the zoo until it closed for the prospect of seeing not just one but two IMAX movies. Unfortnately, the ample accessible seating area (with companion seats conveniently beside) were too close and messed with his non-binocular vision during the first movie: Under the Sea. (Stross can only see out of one eye at a time, so 3D up close makes him "dizzy.") Stross, undaunted, took Mark up on his suggestion to be carried up the stairs to sit by his brother and grandparents (and we would move with him) to view the second show about the Hubble telescope: Hubble. So during the second movie, we all sat as a family, Stross didn't feel dizzy, and he independently muscled his way across the row of seats and down the stairs when the show ended. Then, after a full day of navigating the Minnesota Zoo, Stross proved that he has what it takes to keep on keeping on. (Yes, you'll see some of what I'm talking about in the vlog.) What an incredible annual reminder of life's fragile tenacity. What a gift of life.
And, now for his birthday hangover: Stross spent part of today watching the four little movies of his celebration I made for him - still living in birthday magic – and waiting for the mail to arrive in case it brought some straggler birthday cards. (It didn't.) He remains undaunted, however. He is still wearing the bear claw necklace he bought yesterday, and he still has birthday money to spend.
I hope you enjoy the nearly 10 minutes of his nearly two-day celebration that is shared here. Mostly, I hope a little of his birthday magic transfers to you, because it is a powerful elixir.
Here's to the 2010 version of Stross' Birthday.
Here's to another wonderful year.