Monday, June 10, 2019

16 Birthdays

16 birthdays.  You've missed 16 birthdays.  16 occasions we didn't get to celebrate with you, 16 cards I didn't get to send.

What would you have done today to mark the occasion?  Would cheesecake still be one of your favorite desserts?  (Would you have remembered what I meant if I'd texted you about the "cheesecake that tasted like sweetcorn?" God, I hope so.)

Where would you be celebrating today?  I can pretend to guess, but I really have no idea.  15 years ago, I didn't know that I'd move to the Chicago area, get married, have a kid, move back to Iowa, and then have another kid. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that I'd currently be a "stay-at-home mom."  Given that I couldn't foresee my own future... it's hard to imagine what path your life would have taken.

But sometimes I pretend to know.

When we were little, you had the most unique aspirations for your future career.  Most kids would answer that age old question with "teacher" or "fireman." Not you.  I can remember you telling people that you were going to be a forensic scientist.  Or a missionary.  Or a truck driver.

Sometimes I pretend that the reason I haven't gotten to talk to you in over 15 years is because you're somewhere where we simply can't communicate.

Maybe you're a missionary in Belize.  You're horribly busy making the jungle a better place and the internet access is almost non-existent.  Maybe you're an over-the-road truck driver.  You're seeing the entire country, but you only use your cell phone for work and like HELL you'd pay to use a computer when you stop for the night.  Maybe you DID become a forensic scientist, but you work for the government and your entire life became classified.  Maybe you ended up in witness protection.  Just typing that makes me smile, because I think you would have liked that sort of "adventure."

I realize how irrational this sounds, but it's nice to imagine you're still around.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm fooling myself.  Maybe we wouldn't even be close anymore.  Maybe our paths would have diverged so much that I wouldn't really know what's going on with your life outside of what you chose to post on social media.

16 missed birthdays.

You know, I can remember your 16th birthday.  We celebrated it riding on a marching band bus somewhere between Iowa and Florida.  I can see this photograph in my mind of you sitting in your bus seat wearing *more* than one party hat. Wish I could find it.

I can remember celebrating one of your birthdays in middle school.  You had a giant sleepover at your house and I ate so many "Nacho Cheese Doritos" that I STILL can't eat them to this day.  I remember another friend of ours was pouring different kinds of soda into the same plastic cup and announced that she was serving us "mixed drinks." I felt so grown up.

I can remember your Mom prepping for another one of your birthdays at your kitchen table.  She was making an ice cream cake roll.  We were circling the table like vultures watching her prep the deliciousness - and then I felt crushed when I realized her creation had to go into the freezer for what seemed like an eternity.

So many birthday memories.  I guess that's how I'm celebrating you today.

Happy happy birthday, my friend.  You only had 20 of them, and that just wasn't enough. 

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