I'm a bad dad, no time nor inclination here on my middle one's birthday - so you'll get to read what I've already written:
It was an April day yesterday, a February day today and that's how March is. Something one day and then something else the next, seeming never quite itself and yet, something more. A month of paradox and complexity, the hint of potential hidden beneath an inch of snow, the silent struggle for survival within a dying season's slipping grasp on a present that's snatched away by the inevitability of another beginning.
I kissed her cheek and told her. "Happy Birthday, Pixie! You're four-years old today!"
"I'm Four, today," she replied, brightly, taking a moment from the cereal bowl in front of her, happy more for the kiss than for the news.
Marni went back to her breakfast, distracted, as if conjuring some distant memory, what it was like being two, what it was like being born, what it was like being four the time before. Half-happy, knowing, bittersweet greeting to another baby step towards the world of us, we, fretters, toilers - the serious. An old soul, she realizes her days of fantasy and imaginary friends are numbered, like a March snowflake, wet and falling fast with its own weight, a tiny light crystalized to be carried on the wind and then, silently disappear. Too soon checking sums on hours worked and what’s left over after the bills are paid but there’s now, she knows, four no longer three and a thousand other things to see today, a thousand things to be.
She stirred her Honey Nut Cheerios humming softly, sometimes sticking the hooves of a toy Pegasus into the Oh's, oblivious to the snow outside and her daddy watching her. Both lost in our focus, our commitment to that instant, that then, that there; all of those and nothing else. She’s thinking of being in the milk, beneath the floating Oh’s, Piscean, swimming in her Marni perfection, dark blue and briny deep, inscrutable, silent, beyond Gollum’s grasping fingers and singing the almost imperceptible tune hummed while her spoon swirls around her bowl.
Across from her, Zeke’s head is down; he’s scooping heaping spoonfuls of cereal into his mouth, trying to ignore that it’s his sister’s birthday. He wants it to be his birthday but if he asked and had something decent to trade, she’d give up her day, she’s just not too concerned about the whole thing. Presents, sure, cool, give me those and let me have your stuffed alligator and the rest of it is yours. Let me swim in my milk, let me see with new eyes somewhere where I have not been, show me something new or let me stir this spoon through my universe.
Breakfast ends and I clear the table, rinse bowls and spoons, put them in the dishpan. Marni and Zeke go into the living room to watch “Blue’s Clues” and this day, the first day of Marni’s fourth year, unfolds like almost every day before it, unremarkable, hackneyed even, kids in front of the TV, dad at the sink doing dishes, the kiss and remark about turning four already a dim memory. Four years ago, this day was monumental, my life changing with another life beginning and every moment of that day is chiseled into my mind like the carefully hewn hieroglyphs on the walls of an ancient tomb. That day I looked out the window from my wife’s room into an unremarkable early March sky, thinking how I would remember that day forever, promising that I would not take that moment for granted.
Lifting my gaze from the suds in the dishpan, I looked out the window to see that it stopped snowing, the sun struggling through the cloud cover to cast light on the thin coating of snow covering the lawn. Time for change, the caprice of March, renewal lunges onward as winter slips once again into the past. Time for a new promise, to not take another moment for granted, not just marking new growth up on the wall but scrawling it indelibly in my mind, Marni is four and it will not pass unnoticed.