So how it goes around here on (adult) birthdays is: the best gift is time alone. Almost without exception.
Yesterday was John’s. He chose to forgo the traditional cake/cookie/decadent dessert for spinach enchiladas with red and green sauce. We found a candle and slid it into the layers of tortilla, cheese, spinach, beans, onions, and corn. We sang. Homemade presents and a bottle of scotch were opened. The best gift might have been G’s unprompted, impromptu Happy Birthday song shortly after he woke. And here I must note that Gabriel Keats is not a morning person, not unlike his mother.
So though John has loads of grading to do, and spent much of the day doing just it, he was able to do it with a modicum of quiet, even as he binged on a Netflix offering to get him through. And when I needed a moment minus boys, he took them out for brunch after church. (When asked what his favorite part of the day was at day’s end, G promptly replied, “Going to the restaurant with daddy!”) Upon their return, John went back to grading and the boys reentered my purview.
That’s the way we groove. At our best, team Jantz-Estes works best through a series of baton passes. I take a few laps, he takes a few. He feeds the minions, I feed the minions. Our endurances shift, and we each specialize—he the master maker when the boys’ plans are bigger than their skill sets; I the incentivizer for outdoor adventure. Even the boys pitch in, understanding when mommy says she can’t talk or answer questions, that they must try to keep themselves occupied so that she can orchestrate a multi-faceted meal (enchiladas, beans and rice push my typical mix-it-up-and-put-it-in-a-bowl cooking pattern). To their very great credit (and increasing maturity), they kept themselves occupied in the basement with “clues” (piles of toys they did God-knows-what-with and then PICKED UP UNASKED when they were finished).
O, I almost forgot. Absolute BEST gift of the day (I will presume to say we all agree on this): as we opened a few presents after lunch in our front room, our hawk friend who lives on campus across the street, alighted on the branch right outside our window. He was close enough that we could see the beautiful spotted detail of his tail feathers and could be amazed by the way he swiveled his head from front to back without moving a single feather. He seemed quite content on that branch until Gabriel—who was bouncing his body up against the window in excitement—spooked him to the oak across the street.