“Those presents for me?” she asked.
We gave her the first one and she tore into it. This is the first birthday she’s had where she’s old enough to understand what is happening, and the look of joy on her face was radiant with expectation.
“It’s a book!” she shouted. “I love it!” We read it together as she delighted over the new story and pictures.
“I want to open another one,” she said once the book was done. We handed her a second present, which she tore into with the same relish and delight. “It’s another book!” she squealed. “I love it!”
After reading the second book, she asked for a third present. “It’s another book! I love it!”
Once the third book was finished, we handed her the fourth and final present of the bunch. She held it in her hands, looking over the blue and red wrapping paper. “It’s another book,” she whispered.
“How do you know?” said her mother. “You haven’t opened it yet.”
Slowly, she tore into the paper. Halfway through, she recognized her new present and cried, “It’s ANOTHER BOOK!! I LOVE IT!!”
In case you’re new to my blog and haven’t read in previous years, I have the same birthday as my daughter. I’ve had a few more birthdays than she’s had – thirty-two more, to be exact. I have to admit that thirty-five years in, I have slightly less enthusiasm for birthdays than my sweet soon-to-be-three-years-old daughter. It’s not that I dislike birthdays so much as it is that, well, there tends to be a little redundancy to them. I like the attention, I suppose, and I always like it when people buy me things. But hey, I’ve done this before. This is a present I’ve already opened many times. It’s nice, I like it. But, you know…
I must say that watching her tear into four different books yesterday humbled me. She’s smart enough to have figured out what was in that last present by the time she got to it. But that didn’t diminish her enthusiasm and excitement at all. If anything, I think it just thrilled her all the more. She was anticipating another book and then she got another book! Perhaps that’s even better than a straight-up surprise, to figure out the good thing about to come to you so that you can delight in it as soon as it arrives.
The world is always fresh to a child. We adults lose this as the world moves wearily on. That’s just how it goes. We get old and tired and jaded and things lose their glimmer. There’s no shame in that; it’s just the way of things. But maybe we celebrate birthdays in order to rejoice not just at the newness of one more year of life, but also at the gift of learning to anticipate what we know we can expect.
And after all, every book was different. Opening four books in a row wasn't tiring or boring to her; each new book just increased the excitement. That’s a challenge I want to take up in my own life. Thirty-five years on, maybe what I need to do is to learn, like Curly Fries, to let what came before help to anticipate more fully what I know probably lies ahead. When I tear into what I already know, may I still shout about how much I love it.