"I love you at 3," I tell her. "And I'll love you at 4, and 14,
and 24, and 34, and 44 and …"
"But, Mommy, then you'll be dead."
I open my eyes but saying nothing.
"When you get too old, you go dead."
"Happy birthday, Mommy."
My older children— 5 and 3—are lately obsessed with birthdays,
numbers and, perhaps due to a recent visit to my mother's grave, death.
Despite waking to this macabre culmination of all three concepts, I am looking
forward to my day.
My actual birthday gift is a trip to a literary festival in
Cambridge, England, which I'm pretty over the moon about. But that's a hard
thing to wrap, so at breakfast my children see me open a book and a running
shirt—great by adult standards, but …
"Oh, Mommy," says my son, "you should have asked for
We decide to spend the day with our children on the beach.
We put on our coats and scarves, and head for the Zandvoort strand, where there
is a nice playground next to a café.
After playing in the sand, walking along the water and having
a nice lunch, my children say we need to go home, to my party.
"This is my party," I explain.
"But you need friends. And children," says my son.
When we get home, my husband dashes out to buy a cake, sensing the children
think he has let me down. But he explains we can't have it until after dinner.
"Oh, Daddy," my 3-year-old daughter says. "You're doing the
The youngest, 2, sticks her finger in the cake anyway.