Birthday Time

Littlest son turned 6 today .... How do you celebrate birthdays? How do you create the rituals of celebration which mark the turning of the years? We have an ancient banner which was created when my eldest son turned one, over 15 years ago. It comes out year after year, birthday after birthday. New colourful paper letters have been created as new brothers have arrived ... It is strung ritually before bed the night before a birthday to greet the coming morn.

Three years ago, my youngest son asked to go to the safari park for his birthday. We had a lovely time. Last year, he wanted to go again, with his best friend, so we did. We had a lovely time. So this year, when we asked what he would like to do for his birthday, he looked at us as if amazed we didn't know. "The safari park, of course!" he declared. So off we went again, with the same friend. It is becoming an annual ritual. It is early spring, still cold and a little windy. There are few people about. But the sun shone, and the animals were active. The young bears were the stars, climbing in the trees for us. And the giraffes were so close we could almost reach out and touch them. We walk amongst the lemurs and the squirrel monkeys and they are utterly unperturbed by our presence. The boys' faces light up. And when we see a red panda - a first for us all - they are overwhelmed. The elephants are walking around the park with their keepers, trunks holding tails, all in a row. They are incredible. We picnic in the car because it is cold. The boys choose penny presses and tiny soft toys as souvenirs, a bear, a wolf, an elephant. Grandma and Grandpa are with us, too. We make some memories. Driving home, the boys are making up silly stories about a giraffe, and illustrating them. They are inspired.

The birthday boy has chosen Chinese take-away for dinner, and of course there is birthday cake. The making of birthday cakes has been something of a creative challenge for me since I was a teenager. I enjoy creating them for the boys. It is kind of an extra special present. My older sons have revelled in the task of setting me challenges in recent years - a radio controlled car, Yoda from Star Wars, a land rover .... It's become a game. Today's Stromtrooper was not too much of a challenge, though I did wonder yesterday as the cake collapsed if I was losing my touch. Fortunately much can be hidden beneath a sheet of fondant icing! I always try to keep the cake as a surprise, and when I carry it out with candles aglow as we all sing Happy Birthday, I love the look of wonder and delight upon their faces. "Wow! Did you MAKE that?"

And now it is late ... A small boy dressed as a ninja is curled up in his chair watching a movie with his brothers and his Dad. Another year has gone by, and he is 6 ...

Now We Are Six
By A.A. Milne
"When I was one, I had just begun,
When I was two, I was nearly new,
When I was three, I was hardly me,
When I was four, I was not much more,
When I was five, I was just alive,
But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever,
And I think I'll be six now forever and ever!"