things suddenly tipped back to normal today.
so beautifully, deliciously ordinary.
sasha slept in late and then spent the morning with me at target as i bought (very ungreen) printed paper plates and napkins and cups for rara's birthday. i dropped her off at school and went to century 21. weaseled my way through the european bargain shopping hordes to buy rara a few surprise presents (she came with us on our first birthday shopping excursion and chose her own presents). by the way, marc jacobs brand for kids becomes quite reasonable here. $26 for a wooly black dress for an 11 year-old seems much closer to right than $146.
on the way home, i walked to the balloon shop and bought a dozen bright blue helium balloons and carried them home in a huge bouncing bouquet. this is most likely the last moment that rara will want balloons at her birthday and now that i have tasted the wrath of adolescence, i wanted to savor my last moments of childhood. i watched mothers with toddlers exploring toys and thought to myself, "oh gosh, you have no idea, do you?" it seems so easy to be a good parent when they are little and half the battle is getting them to say please and thank you and eat some vegetables.
i stood in the shop where i have bought balloons for all the girls' birthdays for the past 14 years. it's a place i used to have to push the stroller past faster because whoever was sitting in it, was always trying to grab one of the giant bobbling display balloons outside. when sasha was little, there wasn't quite as much licensing, so the balloons were big palm trees or gorillas or zebras but temptingly big enough to ride on. by the time it got to zarina, there was an elmo in the mix, but rara had sponge bob, dora and a whole host of inflatable nickleodeon characters in larger-than-life sizes.
the shop was just at the corner where we turned off west broadway on to duane street, where the preschool was. oh my god, preschool. when you worried about whether she might bite on a playdate or whether she'd actually get a playdate with the kid she wanted one with.
when i started buying balloons there, sasha was 2 and 1/2 and i was elephantine-pregnant with zarina and rara wasn't even a thought in anyone's mind.
this time, i was the only one in my pack of amazons who was giddy with excitement as the guy with the helium tank magically transformed each inky shred of nylon into a big sky blue bubble. i remembered all those frigid february birthdays (sasha is february 7), holding sasha's hand with one hand, pushing zarina's stroller with the other and trying to keep our huge multicolored grape vine of balloons from taking us all airborne in the icy winter wind.
i walked up west broadway, alternately exhilarated with the anticipation of mirad, nathalia and rara's pleasure and laughing like a four year-old at the vision of myself carrying an instant birthday party down the pavement on a dreary tuesday afternoon.
i came home and soraya and mirad and nathalia were there, finishing up homework and doing last-minute preparation. zarina and rara and sasha came home, one after the other, and dinner was eaten and candles blown out amidst the usual chaos of shouting children and crumpling wrapping paper. surprisingly, james made an appearance - he's been scarce since he started dating elizabeth - and everyone seemed happy to see him.
somehow, everything felt normal again. zarina apologized for being rude. sasha, almost 17, seemed to have come out the other end of the angry fever of adolescence. rara was all smiles (as usual) and mirad and nathalia were beautifully-behaved and no cake ended up in my bed or smashed into the sofa or the carpet. i forgot that i was bald and skinny and shouldn't even taste the cake or the lovely blue marzipan bird. i was again a glossy-skinned young mother surrounded by happy sugar-crazed children.
oh how wonderfully prosaic. how uneventfully every day. what a fabulously ordinary child's 11th birthday.
packing my bag for the hospital and my next dose of chemo tomorrow and buoyant with the hope that my life will be a smile like a party-sized bunch of balloons walking up the street again.
it's almost here.