Emma loves nothing more than a birthday party. And so it was with great excitement that she descended the staircase wearing her party dress with a pair of lime-green and black crocks on her feet last night.
“Oh Emma! You look so beautiful!” I said when I saw her.
“It’s Mommy’s birthday,” She said in response.
If we are having a few people over for dinner, Emma will say, “It’s a birthday party!”
“No, we’re just having some friends over for dinner,” I will try to explain.
“Party,” Emma will say, nodding her head and then she’ll add quickly, almost under her breath, “Birthday party.” As though by saying this it will make it so.
It doesn’t matter how often we explain that any given holiday such as Christmas is different than a birthday it becomes a – “Christmas Birthday party.” If we are having family and friends over for Thanksgiving – it becomes a “Thanksgiving Birthday party”. My mother’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving every seven years, which has only compounded the problem, making our explanation all the more inexplicable to Emma. How is it that just two years ago we had a huge birthday celebration on Thanksgiving for my mother with relatives flying in from all over the US and now this year it’s a regular Thanksgiving. As far as Emma’s concerned we are making things far too complicated. A party is a birthday party no matter what we say. And yet, now after the other night’s monologue I wonder if this is true. Perhaps the subtleties are not lost on her, perhaps she simply is unable to express herself well enough to tell us how she feels and it’s the excitement she is trying her best to convey. The kind of excitement we can understand and which we are able to share with her derived from a birthday celebration.
So it was last night as I celebrated a half-century of life, which does seem an awfully long time. But age carries little importance to Emma. Often when asked, “Emma, how old are you?” She will answer, “Three!” or “Five!” as likely as what her real age is, “Eight!” These are words, which she tries to remember but sometimes forgets. When I hear her answer, it seems to me the number holds no meaning to her. As it should be, I say.
Last night after the birthday cake was served and my mother had given a toast, Emma ran up to the front of the room, grabbed hold of a pretend microphone and proceeded to say in a loud voice, “Ladies and Gentleman! Enjoy the show!”
Richard and I exchanged a nervous look. Emma has been known to get up in front of an “audience” whether it’s on the subway and they are involuntary and captive or at any dinner party to sing. Often Emma will sing the same song over and over until she is told to stop. When we are home and it’s just us we will allow her to sing the same song repeatedly. However even then we will try to redirect her and encourage her to sing a different song to break her out of the increasingly perseverative loop she can get herself in.
“Emma! Would you like to sing?” I asked.
“Yes,” Emma said, bouncing up and down.
“Okay, one song,” I said holding up an index finger.
Emma nodded her head, “Okay.”
“What would you like to sing?” I asked.
“It’s My Life,” Emma said.
It’s My Life by Gwen Stefani is Emma’s favorite song, hands down. Not only does Emma know the lyrics by heart, but she has all the instrumentals down and does her best to make noises replicating them. Our guests, all 50 plus of them gave her their attention as Emma began. It was a flawless performance, which began somewhat timidly, for Emma is usually not shy in either pitch nor volume, picking up in intensity after the first few bars. By the end she was dancing and singing with abandon. When she finished everyone cheered and applauded as Emma beamed. She ran over to me.
Looking into my eyes she said, “Daddy’s turn and then Emma sing again?”
That’s our beautiful girl – a Gwen Stefani wannabe, rock and roll princess who loves an appreciative audience. I’m just hoping someone recorded it.