Squished like some kind of road kill between Mother’s Day and the long May weekend is the day she would have turned 32 – today – the 19th of May. Birth days, after the death of a child, become a countdown to death day. The now-closed loop between life and death is finite and each new day for me is one she didn’t have. It’s a useless exercise and yet it propels me through every day. One month, six months, nine months, ten. It’s not the way she lived but it’s become the way I live with it.
When she was young, the bulk of her birthday weekends were spent at the ballpark in Abbotsford – the first in a long season of tournaments her brother would play in and her Dad would coach. We’d throw her a party either before or after the weekend and her ball park buddies would use it as either a prequel of or sequel to continued birthday surprises.
As a young adult, her earlier birthdays set the table for future sports-related celebrations. She’d organize the teams, choose the sport and we’d follow it up with a barbecue. She kicked ass in football, failed miserably in basketball and surprised us all in golf. To her brother’s lifelong mortification, she’d hit a hole-in-one at the Stanley Park pitch and putt at the tender age of seven. Never a girl to miss an opportunity, she tormented him for years with that tiny, innocuous phrase – “hole-in-one”. Fast forward to 19. Having graduated to the big little golf course – Murdo Fraser Par 3 – she went at him with a vengeance on that birthday’s birthday competition. I don’t remember who won that day but I do remember it was a 1-point spread accompanied by catcalls and trash talk. Such simple pleasures. This is how we lived. This is who we were. How, then, to reconcile the vast gap between then and now?
This morning, the day she would have turned 32, my husband and I returned to the scene of the crime. We walked the course, a memory card of sorts, and each step brought a new tear, each swing of the club another laugh. I see us there still; our past imprinted against the incongruent backdrop of tall cedars and pink golf shirts.
She was born on the holiday Monday the day after the Mt. St. Helen’s volcanic blast shook our house to its foundations. We didn’t know then that this little girl would have the same effect on us. She blew the three of us open to make room for herself and she brought with her some old, soulful magic. Finding ways to live without that wisdom now seems impossible as we wend our way through this year of first firsts. We do our best.
The barbecue is lit, the appetizers prepared and her favourite cake awaits. Balloons festoon the balcony rail until their dusky release. We’ll sing Happy Birthday as we always did and trust that she knows we have. We go through these motions today, our love fierce and our memories intact. And we marvel at the signs.
Today of all days, the pink magnolia we planted in her name last fall, a gift from a group of well-wishers, blooms. There was never a doubt. It will bloom on her birthday, my husband stated, as sure as ever, months ago. It has. It does. She does – wherever she is. Happy birthday, Sadie-bumps. Happy birthday.
© Kim Reynolds 2012