As I gushed over the weekend, my littlest guy turned five on Saturday.
Five is a big deal. Five is decidedly no-longer-baby-boy territory.
In the week prior to the big day, I was having all kinds of thoughts, but what caused me to ruminate the most was this: I was five years old when we moved to the city where I grew up. I was five when I met my best friend, who has been part of my life ever since.
Although there are earlier memories, vague, faint things before five, five is when my active memory starts.
And…as you may remember, Memory is one of the sixty-some-odd virtues that my philosopher husband and I established as being important to teach our children. Remembering people we love, remembering important events. Remembering the people who served our country. We may be somewhat haphazard about this so far, but it is important to us.
So I decided last week that on his birthday, I wanted to take my little big boy on a date. If five years old was the starting place of his active memory, as it had been for me, then I wanted that first one to be a banger.
I went to a coffee shop down the street on the day before, which is owned by a couple I know (she was one of my interns at the radio station years ago) to make sure that it would be appropriate, and Ben, Sophie’s husband assured me that it would be the perfect place to bring a newly-minted five year-old.
On the day of, I whispered to him, so that his brother wouldn’t get jealous, that I would like to take him out for a little bit. He insisted on bringing his Stormtrooper mask that came with his Stormtrooper costume his Aunt Poppy sent him for his birthday. So…technically, I went on a date with a Junior Stormtrooper.
He had it in his mind that we would go to the park, which, of course, we did eventually do. But once we were out the door, I told him that I wanted to take him on a date. Just him and me. To talk about grown-up stuff.
The coffee shop has a playroom with toys (mostly for babies, but there were Duplo, which remain interesting to my big big big big baby.) So while we waited for our drinks (hot chocolate for me, freshly squeezed OJ for him), we played. I unplugged. We built a thing.
When our drinks were ready, we were given the window seat, with the green velvet throne chairs. Yup. A reserved table just for us to have our big grown-up conversation.
He looked nervous at first, I’ll be honest. But he was so good. He looked so handsome, sitting there on his birthday throne.
“So. Now you’re five,” I said.
“I need you to know something, now that you are five,” I continued.
He was curious, but a little scared.
“Life is not always going to be fair. But your job in this world is to set the example. The reason you and I exist is to bring more justice to this world, in any and every possible way we can.”
He kept nodding.
“Do you understand?”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Can you give me an example?”
He nodded again, with assurance.
“Like, when it’s my turn to be line leader, I can let Mia go first because she missed her turn when she was sick.”
I was dumbfounded. He got it.
“Exactly,” I whispered, feeling a little bit overwhelmed. I truly only expected to open up a conversation about a big idea, one of the big ideas I esteem to be principle to living a happy life. I was expecting for him to just hear the words for the first time. Not for him to actually get it.
Of course, in the same breath after that, he started talking about passing gas and other extremely polite 5 year-old topics that should always be reserved for when we are sitting on a green velvet throne.
Shortly thereafter we went to the park and played Hide and Seek and he climbed the monkey bars and did all the zany stuff he loves to do there.
He wanted us to keep our date a secret. I was cool with this.
Later that evening, when I was putting away stuffed animals that had managed to escape his bedroom, I found that our very sick kitty had taken up residence in his room, curled up in the unmade covers. I lay down next to the kitty, and had a good cry.
The eldest scalawag came looking for me, and found me with the kitty. I wasn’t sure if I should, but I felt a nudge telling me that we needed to prepare the boys for what was surely going to happen this week with the kitty.
“Titi is probably going to die this week,” I told the big brother. He got mad, cried, said it wasn’t fair.
Little brother came in, perplexed as to why his brother and I were lying on his bed crying.
“Tell him, Mamma.”
So I did. And my littlest scalawag, freshly five years old, burst into tears.
“But I am going to miss Titi!” he said when he could talk again.
That all was a parenthesis in an otherwise lovely day. But it didn’t end there.
Much later, the little scalawag took me by the sleeve into the bathroom and closed the door.
“Hey, Mamma?” he whispered. “That was fun today. Going to the coffee shop.”
“It was, wasn’t it!” I gushed.
“But it’s sad about Titi,” he added, in a very grown up way.
“It is, isn’t it?” I replied. “But it’s okay to be sad.”
“I was sad when Mia missed her turn because she was sick,” he added.
“The same kind of sad as with Titi?” I probed.
“No. But sad.”
“That’s interesting,” I said. “Maybe we need to pay attention to the things that make us sad. Maybe they will help us know when we need to do something to help someone.”
“How can we help Titi?” he asked.
Even longer silence.
“We are going to help him stop suffering,” I said. “The doctor can do that.”
Ugh. I truly did not expect all of our conversations to come to a head in such a strange way.
On the day we celebrated his little life, I’m rather convinced that we made a few memories. And even though one of them concerns the imminent death of a beloved pet, I’m fairly certain that they will all be good memories.