A birthday is the anniversary of something we all like to celebrate and share and why should anyone want to be any different?
Pictured here in this photo we are all together the day before we were celebrating Imogen turning four. Kath was still with us then but the very next year Imogen was celebrating it without mum and her own.
Trying to find a picture of her when she was five I noticed how little I had taken of her in that year and it got me thinking, with each much anticipated and celebrated birthday, what do we make of the time in between?
I know for sure when Imogen turned four, nobody, absolutely nobody had any idea Katherine would not see her daughter turn five, or that she would not be around later that year to buy her daughters Christmas presents and such.
The day before we had all gone to visit the Lavender fields in Woodmansterne and it did not feel like it was barely two months to Kath’s end. As she is lovingly looking over our Imogen’s shoulder as she blows out the candle on her cake none of us would know, it would turn out to be the last time we had her celebrating anything at home. If I had but known, I would have traded anything for Imogen’s fourth birthday wish.
The next family birthday coming was Hannah’s and as I have previously recounted, that day, any would-be celebrations with mum were spent at her bedside in the local Hospice just 3 days from the demise of what we all were as a family unit and the start of a unrecognised life on our own.
So now what does a birthday measure when I try to plan to celebrate with my girls and how does the time in between birthdays answer the question all on its own?
Hannah’s 14 party we spent at home firstly with all of the family except the most important one, whilst her mother it felt was dying alone. The obligatory chorus of ‘happy birthday’ was sung by one and all as for the sake of the children one has to seem to carry on especially in light of their moment to bask in joy and cake candle light. Then we joined her mother a bit later and the measure of the birthday could be known. Birthdays really measure the anniversary of a mother giving birth and how a family comes to be, and I often think it is the wrong person blowing out candles.
Aimée never got to have her much begged for party despite her going on month after month and my intentions to comply and then even her present came rather to late. The man behind the camera has in recent times forgot the essence of what he hoped to capture, feeling at times as if he wasn’t even there, but that isn’t really fair when children already have a parent missing from their birthdays already.
A birthday measures many things and the time in between. On this occasion on the 22nd August 2014 it measured Imogen’s sixth birthday and one she shared with Katherine’s great friend Aileen and my parent’s 49th wedding anniversary too, but none of these things were on my mind. Imogen was already on a high as much as I was discreetly feeling low having watched the week and the time pass me by. In the last three days Imogen had lost both her front teeth watching one fall out on top of the other, and as she gave be each tooth all I could do was pine for her mother. She was then graced on two nights by the generousity of the visiting tooth fairy who made a fair trade despite Aimée’s revelation that she no longer believed as she now new the truth. I was measuring the passing of time all the time. Aimée’s growing up fast and suddenly becoming wiser at the expense of some innocent youth about also to start her life in secondary school. Imogen has her adult teeth pushing through and pushing her milk teeth out and away and the new gap in her teeth has her sounding so cute, but it measures the passing of time and has me thinking of Kath and of the roles that she played of which there were many which now all are mine, but keeping joy in our house and ensuring our girls enjoy life to the full has been something I have not easily managed to substitute on my own. However I try to find what resolve I can and not always measure, the measure of things and count always their stings. As well as a dentist and a full days work, I would somehow manage to get some shopping done on this day and pick up a cake for my wonderful darling Imogen and a chance to bask in her own candlelight.
Having invited my siblings and parents for a 5pm low key cup of tea and slice of birthday cake, I managed only to arrive in from work by 6pm with everyone already twitching to go. By the time I had changed, shaved and tried to look the part before grabbing my camera, it felt I had just joined the room, when the flashes had gone off and the birthday chorus sung watching candlelights getting blown out with barely a moment for me to even reflect on what it is that I see reflected back at me in my daughters’ moments of glee. Their birthdays measure our family’s start and something missing from them, and all that reflects back at me, all that remains missing from me. I wish I could say that they didn’t, but my daughter’s birthdays along with other things, remind me of the day my wife gave me another something special and of losing Kath and seeing her own lights blown out.