He was trying to explain to me.
“The soup,” he said.
“Which one?” I asked.
“The one with the bacon.”
“Potato and leek soup? The one where I have the bacon just on top?
“It has bacon all in it.” He used hand actions as he spoke.
Bacon all in it. Bacon all in it. Thinking. Thinking.
“Oh! Pea and ham soup?” I suggested. I rarely make the soup so it took a moment to register.
That was the one: The dinner he chose to have on his birthday.
Seemed an odd choice for a little boy.
A realisation made me sob inside. I remembered asking my own mother for the same birthday dinner when I was grown, but still living at home. I remember distinctly the slow cooker sitting on the marble bench top in my parent’s kitchen, near the window with a view of trees.
She made it thick like I liked. I would have been nineteen at the time I believe. She’s gone now: my Mum; and these little memories, that hurt as much as they heal, can hit you, sometimes without warning. Even after seven years. After the initial pain passed, I enjoyed the memory, and made the soup for my son with as much love as I knew my mother had done for me, knowing that somehow, the love of the hearty soup had passed through the generations. There’s beauty in that.
While I prepared the final stages of the soup, I watched my dad interact with my son. They were building a Lego helicopter (a present given that morning). My son was perched there on the side of the table, in awe of his grandfather, and excited by the progress. I watched him gradually move around on the table — it’s something I would have usually pulled him up on — until he was directly in front of his grandfather.
Sitting on the table: it seemed the most natural thing in the world in that moment; engrossed as he was, with all that was his birthday, his grandfather and a table full of Lego. He was perfectly safe (you’ll just have to trust me on that), and I didn’t dare interrupt the magic. No. I loved seeing him there, knowing how unaware he was of his surroundings. What bliss. What joy!
It was easy to capture this smile.
We had the cake of his choice for dessert. Number 6, based on the classic Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book.
There was no matching napkins or a big present table; no party bags or jumping castles; no guest list or streamers. But it was special, and I could see in my son’s delighted smiles how much he enjoyed his birthday.
My husband and I decided we wouldn’t do big birthday parties for our children every year, and to this day I’m glad of that. Oh sure: they are fun, and we do them…but not every year. No. Because sometimes the best birthdays, the ones weighted with significant memory — like when in my teens I sat around my parent’s table eating pea and ham soup — are simple. I think of birthdays as celebrating life, not an event. And it is simple: it’s when the ones who love you most dearly, are close and make you feel like you’re the most special person in the world.
KristieSeptember 14, 2013 at 11:28 pm
Beautiful! We are starting to tone down birthdays and make them more special and unique. With 4 boys we figured we needed too. Sometimes the big parties end up so stressful and busy that you miss the little moments.
Happy Birthday to your son!
Kymmie @ a day in the life of usSeptember 15, 2013 at 10:40 am
The simplest birthdays are the best. Beautiful post about your mum, and about your dad. We don’t do big birthdays every year either, and it’s good for everyone, including the birthday boys. (The cake looks awesome!) xx
MaritaSeptember 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm
So true, there is beauty in the simplicity of time spent with surrounded by family and love.
alanaSeptember 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm
I love simple birthdays!! My eldest daughter just turned 6….it seems so grown up. Looks like he had a fun birthday!
Renae FoottitSeptember 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm
I LOVE pea and ham soup 🙂 It was one of the first things I started making regularly in my slow cooker when we moved to Victoria – that smell is something else. What a lovely moment for you.
David MurphySeptember 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm
Kelly, just beautiful!! As a grandfather who regularly visits your site as I do ‘Pop Day Care’ each week, this hit the heart strings big time!! You are to be congratulated on what you do. You are a champion!!!
MelissaSeptember 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm
There’s something about Pea & Ham soup… For me it brings back memories of my grandmother. BIrthday magic really does come down to making your child feel like they’re the most special person in the world, and yes – you really don’t need a birthday party extravaganza to achieve that!
David MurphySeptember 16, 2013 at 10:17 pm
You are amazing. I hope I can achieve the same level of success with Pop Day Care as you achieve each day. You are amazing!!!
Danya BanyaSeptember 17, 2013 at 9:11 am
What a smile. He looks like the happiest birthday boy you could hope for.
PennySeptember 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm
What a celebration. A family birthday celebration. Just as nice (if not nicer in my opinion) than a crazy, full on party. It’s nice to be content to have a lovely, calm and gentle day to celebrate your age yet still being spoilt in certain ways throughout the day. This was lovely to read and the images captured such a special moment.
Kirsten McCullochSeptember 22, 2013 at 9:33 am
Beautiful smile, beautiful post. I have always loved the idea of birthdays as celebrating a person, not an event. We’re celebrating the fact that you were born, and that you are still here with us, not that you are XX years old. We don’t do birthday parties every year either 🙂
JackieOctober 21, 2013 at 6:29 am
Love it, we’ve decided our 3 kids can have a ‘party’ every second year. The other year they’ll get a surprise treat. Our just turned 8 year old and her best friend (along with mum, dad and siblings) were just surprised with a visit to the Great Moscow Circus! She’s wanted to go to the circus for years….and it was in town….the day of her birthday! Can you believe it!!
The best part was we’d convinced them we were going to the ‘Bunnings’ across the road to do Father’s Day craft and play in the playground, and they were all happy to be doing that. Soooo much fun!
(My daughter got the ‘red tool box’ set from Big W for her birthday. A gift any boy and some girls would love! Kids sized ‘real’ tools and kits for them to make, we also added some paint sample pots. We got her the toolbench but its not really needed. So far she’s made a candy machine and a photo box/pen holder for dad for Father’s Day. Next up is a mini air-hockey table and a toolbox. Great idea. She’ll be getting more kits for Christmas. For ages 8+ but my 3 yr old built a candy machine with help. It’s been awesome fun!)