I know that on people's birthdays I always write about a special memory of them, but with Joey there are just too many things. He is every little bit of good that God could squeeze from Joe and me. He is magic and sparkle and just pure good. He is the child I always imagined myself having: that perfect image I conjured up when I was little and playing house and saying, "And my baby will be sweet and smart and good and everyone else will love him, too."
I had my first round of kidney stones when I was seven months pregnant. Joe rushed me to the hospital, and all I could do was pray and pray, "Please let Baby Joey be okay." Two months later, I was in labor for thirty-six hours. Thirty-six! Seven years ago right now, my OB was sitting in a chair next to my hospital bed saying, "Shit or get off the pot, Mary Pat!" because I'd been on pitocin for twelve and half hours already and Joey just wasn't budging. (Yes. A doctor actually said those words to me. BTW.) He wouldn't be born for another twenty-four, in which time I would have two epidurals and have flipped off a nurse. For REAL. And when he finally was born, he held his breath for a full minute...the longest minute of my life...before letting out such a scream. Everyone cheered. My beautiful little boy.
He was colicky--brutally so--until he was three months old. He had horrible acid reflux, spitting up all violent and projectile all day long. He cried so much back then that I had to use fake names when I called the pediatrician. I remember standing in the doctor's office once, crying myself, and telling the doctor, "I'm not a good mother. He's never going to be happy." It's completely ridiculous in retrospect, but those first months felt neverending to me. And I had no concept, no gauge, to comprehend the temporary-ness of it all. The doctor had said to me, "Give him time. Once he can sit up, around six months, he'll feel much better."
She was right, of course, as experts tend to be. (How annoying.) At six months, Joey became the smiley-est, happiest boy. He still had reflux, he still HAS reflux now, my poor little puker, but he has been completely happy since he was six months old. Now he is six years old, and tomorrow he will be seven. This is just rambling, I know, and I thank you for even reading this far.
It's just that I never imagined in my whole life how much I could love. I knew it objectively, as in, "Yes I'll love my husband and my children and rainbows and sunshine and tra la la!" But to imagine the depth of feeling I would have...it just wasn't possible. It is a love far greater than myself, far greater than anything earthly even. To know without a doubt that I would lay down and die for this tiny person--who is not so tiny anymore--without hesitation or thought.
Before I continue rambling, I'll just compose a list of what I love best about Joey right now. In the moment, I think I'll always remember these things, but then again, I know I won't. Moments are too fleeting, and he changes so often that I could never expect to keep track of it all. So here is my list of why my boy is wonderful:
1. He is reading, really, not just pretending, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.
2. His huge green eyes, the greenest eyes I've ever seen in my life.
3. His maniacal giggle at inappropriate jokes, especially anything to do with boobs (although he'd never say that word out loud.)
4. The way he watches out for his little brother.
5. The way he watches out for me...insanely, he worries about me. About my feelings, my health, if I'm having a bad day, if he can make it better.
6. That he's getting to be pretty decent at baseball.
7. His artwork.
8. His stories. He is a writer. Should I laugh or cry? And he's good, too.
9. His hugs. They can make everything bad go away. Shouldn't he say that about me, not the other way around?
10. The way he sees good in the people he loves, even when they are at their worst.
11. The way he expects everyone to be as good and innocent as he is. That will go away sooner than later, and I hate that for him. It will hurt us both.
12. He is a great dancer.
13. He is a daydreamer. It takes him FOREVER to walk from the car into school, because he actually stops to watch the clouds.
14. No matter how bad any day is, he starts fresh as soon as he can. He doesn't hold on to the negative, but looks for the good in everything.
15. That if I have to be somewhere else at bedtime, he calls me up in the middle of the night and says, "Can you just do your usual bedtime stuff? I missed you tonight. Only you can make it special."
I know he isn't perfect. Nobody is. But he's as damn close as any human being will ever get.
Happy Birthday, Joey!