How this came to be, I am not quite certain… I really could have sworn that she and I were just playing games every morning before afternoon kindergarten, that she was just learning to ride a bike, that she was just dancing around like a lunatic before bed.
Scratch that last one. She still dances around like a lunatic.
But now she is nine and dancing around – nearly double digits, that in-between age before Big Kid but not quite Little Kid, either. Not that Annie has ever fit neatly into any single category… She sings Tom Petty and Elton John songs in the shower but recites schoolyard rhymes as she wanders the house. She adores Harry Potter and Junie B. Jones in equal measure. She will help make dinner and fold her own laundry but still carries her silkies everywhere.
As I’ve chronicled before, for the past many years, we have celebrated the girls’ birthdays in the summer (because I’m bad with The Math and somehow wound up with not one but two December babies, which makes for a
freakin’ insane busy month). I’d always said that the summer celebrations undoubtedly lessened the stress of December, but it was really a theory; I hadn’t put it to the test.
This year, the girls elected not to celebrate early – they just weren’t feeling it. Ella did have a small (but awesome; more on that sometime soon, I swear) party, but Annie has decided that, as of now, she is content without a big celebration. Although a (not-so-small) part of me is grateful for this (because my theory? The theory that two birthday celebrations AND Christmas within a two week span would be
freakin’ insane busy? ABSOLUTELY CORRECT), the other part is a little bit crushed.
How is it possible that she is perfectly happy just enjoying being sung to at school and then having a birthday day at home? When did she become so old?
Because of the lack of festivities, we offered to do anything that Annie wanted on her birthday: go to a museum, go bowling, go to an indoor trampoline park, take a hike (this “winter” weather has been SO VERY WARM and SO VERY WEIRD), see a movie, eat out, invite a friend to play, host a board or card game marathon (our Nini [pronounced knee-knee; my cousin’s son couldn’t say “Annie” and thus called her “Nini” and we’ve stuck with it because HOW CUTE IS THAT] loves games)… ANYTHING SHE WANTED…
Turns out, what Annie wanted was to stay home all day, open her presents, play with them, eat three home-cooked meals, design some Christmas wrapping paper, read some books, and chill.
As I set out the night before the big day to wrap her gifts, I was stricken to discover that I really didn’t have any birthday-appropriate paper. (See again: we usually celebrate in the summer so I was unprepared.) What I did have, however, was a roll of the frog-covered wallpaper that hung in my grandma’s bathroom. (It was super easy to find, too, because of how wondrously organized everything still is – a miracle, really. Holla!)
Lemme ‘splain. Several years back, one of us had received a gift from Phoofsy… wrapped in what appeared to be the wallpaper from her bathroom. When we commented on the remarkable similarity, she informed us that it was, indeed, the very same — she had some leftover from when the room had been decorated and it was perfectly good paper so why not put it to use?
Thus, it all came full circle. As I’d written a couple of years back, when I discovered I was pregnant with Annie, I wasn’t exactly thrilled – especially not to be having another December baby. Still, we believe that everything happens for a reason, so surely her being due in December was no coincidence…
By the fall, the reason had become crystal clear.
Having Annie caused us to have to move – and, obviously, we moved to Rochester, where my grandparents lived.
To quote from my aforementioned post:
“If we hadn’t moved when we did, we wouldn’t have had that summer with my grandfather. We wouldn’t have been here when he died… We wouldn’t have been here with my grandmother after his death, dragging her gamely along to the children’s museum and the apple orchard, and accompanying her to mother/daughter celebrations at her social club. If we hadn’t moved when we did, she certainly wouldn’t have had Annie and Ella nearby to cheer her up, to make her smile, to give her hope.
It was all so ridiculously clear: If Annie had not been born when she was, we never would have moved when we did, and life as we know it would not exist.
… I don’t know what it was, but from the moment they laid eyes on each other, Annie and Phoofsy were smitten. Phoofsy had always loved Ella – there was no worry of that – but there was something special about her relationship with Annie. They lit up when they saw one another; where everyone else would be captivated by Ella’s stories and songs and dramatic reenactments, Phoofsy would go up to Annie and coo at her, instead. Annie’s biggest fan, we called her. It was pretty damn neat.”
We had (nearly) eight amazing years in Rochester with Phoofsy – none of which would have happened as they did if Annie hadn’t come into our lives exactly when she did. She and my grandma would not have had each other; and oh, how they were crazy about each other! Perfect timing, indeed.
Phoofsy and Annie sharing iPad stories during a layover from our trip to Charleston last year.
So it seemed particularly wonderful that I could wrap some of Annie’s birthday presents in Phoofsy’s ridiculous wallpaper – bringing her into our little celebration.
Despite the lack of hoopla, I couldn’t resist attempting to make Annie more than just a cake from a mix (it was still from a mix, don’t you worry; I just tried to jazz it up a little and turn it into a stack of books). It wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, but Nini seemed to love it – and that’s what matters (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself).
I’m still not used to the fact that she is no longer eight; I misspoke the other day and gave someone her incorrect age, much to her chagrin. I am, however, more smitten with her every single damned day. She is a pistol for sure, but she is also joy and wonder and pure awesome personified.
Happiest ninth* birthday, our Annabelle Grace. You complete us and we adore you – even when you dance like a lunatic.
(* no joke – when I wrote this, I originally typed “eighth birthday.” MAYBE BY THE TIME SHE IS TEN I WILL GET THIS RIGHT.)