On the occasion
of my son's sixth birthday, he had asked me if I had ever been six. I said of course I had. He asked me if I rode dinosaurs to school back then
. I said no, that was my mother; go ask her.
Later, having a brief discussion with a friend resulted in their asking if I ever told my kids about my childhood. I had said no. There is too much sadness mixed into all of that.
Today, as I celebrate my 30th year on this messed up ball of chaos, These snatches of conversation come to mind. I made a promise. I am going to try, for both of us.
One of my most favorite childhood memories involved a silly game we used to play when we'd sleep over at our cousin's house in the summertime. The game was called "Let's discover morning!" and the rules were simple: you had to stay awake until dawn, and be the first person to see the sun peeping out at you from the horizon.
Being that the key participants were 9 (my cousin), 6 (me), and 5 (my brother) at the time, this was a pretty amazing feat, which usually ended up with one of our moms at some point come barreling down the hall to ask what the hell the racket was about, and it was 2 in the god-damned morning, and you'd better believe I'll tan your hide if I hear another peep from you.
It never stopped us from our mission. We would play games to keep each other awake in the dark. Mostly alphabet or memory type games like, "I went on vacation and packed in my suitcase an apple" and the next kid would say "an apple, and a bear" and so forth. But sometimes it would be games like "oh my gosh what was that noise? Was it a ghost? It was a ghost! Quick turn the flashlight on!"
I was the one that usually made it to morning, and won the game. Even then, sleep and I had negotiation issues. But this one morning in particular shines out to me. My cousin was fast asleep in her sleeping bag on the floor, and my lids were getting heavy for once. My brother was leaning up against the window, facing my own head leaning against the window. His lids were heavy as well and suddenly they went wide.
"Grace! Grace I did it! Wake up Grace! I discovered morning!"
His eyes lit up brighter than a thousand suns. The secret was, in the end it was still I who had discovered morning; I had seen it for the wonder it could be, reflected perfectly in my little brother's eyes.
And it's moments like this that I wish for my son and for my daughter. Because it's moments like this that take the simple and turn it into something so much more.
And it is this that is my own birthday gift to myself; to set aside the mantle of a million little sorrows for just this once, and to remember what it was to be six and alive.