My pre-birthday unrest screeched into the station like a grim, communist train, four days before the big day. Why, I wondered, is something this predictable not preventable? Though I am always grateful to be alive, I am not always happy to be so. I can hold an awareness of the wonder of my existence simultaneously with a yawning sense of futility. No, I do not get invited to cocktail parties very often; funnily enough.
I spent the morning at church, in a rehearsal for the children’s Christmas program. I know I am not the only one who sees these pageants as akin to daylight savings time: something that we are forced to endure on an annual basis, simply because we have always done so. This might not be the attitude you expect from a Sunday school teacher, but I prefer to think of myself as more of a “prophet”.
As an airborne tambourine narrowly missed my ear, one of my little students started to feel dizzy and ominously warm. I felt his fiery furnace of a forehead, regarded his rheumy eyes, and asked if he wanted to sit on my lap. We got rid of his polyester wise man costume, which may have been designed to create, and seal in, a childhood fever.
As the small wise man from the Eastside of Olympia sat on my lap in his Seahawks t-shirt, sweaty and a little sad, I was glad to be there, cringing through a murdered version of “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” I felt grateful then, that I got to grow up to be a safe, comforting adult, whose lap a child would like to take up. I told him to rest his head back on my shoulder, the better to breathe his whooping cough germs directly into my eye.
Once I got home, my bit of enlightened cheer had dissipated. I’d been having a good hair day, but my outer well-coiffed smoothness was not translating to inner calm, so I grabbed my oldest daughter for a walk in the woods. A little time in the trees would be a sure corrective to my birthday crossness.
I was beginning to feel a spark of life returning, when it began to mist from all directions, then let loose with a hair-dismantling drizzle. The walk could not work its magic on my mood, due to the destruction of my tresses, and it was all shaping up to be an O’Henry short story. “Frankincense and Myrrh!” I uttered. Finally, a chance to employ my favorite holiday fake swear.
And then I remembered that I had actually received a gift from a magi (or at least one dressed up as what a friend’s grandson calls “the three wise guys”). I had been reminded that it’s hard to be a child, and feel sick and sad. And it’s good to be a grown up who can remind a child that, though I may not care much for the Christmas program, I do care about him. He told me that he was supposed to go to a birthday party at Boomshaka afterwards, so he needed to not be sick. I hope Boomshaka, the indoor trampoline park, keeps a hazmat crew on retainer. That could be one hell of a birthday. In fact, mine was looking better all the time.