Thoughts on Forcing Special

What I wrote in our family album tonight upon discovering all the photos from London’s birthday party (except one) had been erased…

Today we celebrated London’s seventh birthday. She’s seven. A beautiful, independent, wisening seven.

She planned a party at the peacock park in Austin, planned it months ago. She and I imagined kids en plein aire drawing peacocks, collecting feathers, breathing the wild air. We bought peacock napkins and pink goldfish crackers.

We woke this morning to 40 degrees and wet skies. I watched London’s face fall. She worried and worried over lunch. What if it rains?  And I worried, too, because it was already raining and I had no rainy day plan. Alas.

So we packed up the party stuff and drove it to the church building and I tried to set up something special in a big empty building, and I called every guest and I rushed and I bossed and I didn’t have time to let London “design” the fruit plate. I grabbed the camera two minutes before guests arrived, and I tried to make her smile beside her cookies in a room with no peacocks and no feathers and no smell of green. She strained at the smiling.

The party went okay. Kids came: Micah, Sienna, Nola, Katie Grace, Evie and Henry, Kate and Hope, Joshua and Skylyn… Adult friends came, too: Eric and Jodi brought origami animals. We watched a movie on the big screens in the auditorium and drank hot chocolate with whipped cream out of tiny Starbucks cups like London likes. We searched for paper feathers. We painted peacocks from the images of peacocks in our heads.

As I experienced it, largely from behind a camera, it seemed a little flat and not what I’d hoped. But looking back, I see London running with friends through the halls. I see her biting her bottom lip while she focuses her eyes and balances her brush. I see a smile plastered across her face as she opens presents perfect for the kid she is, evidence of being known, loved.

I took a lot of pictures today—a lot of them posed—trying to force the day into something better than I thought it could be. I liked the pictures, and they’d be here on this page if I hadn’t lost them all. But I did lose them. And all I have to remember London’s seventh birthday is one snapshot from a phone and a few pictures of details strewn at this very moment across my kitchen counters and floors.

I cried when I lost the pictures. Because I really do love pictures. And I’m not apologetic about that. I grabbed a picture of London and Eve that I’d really liked. And one of London with her art. And the picture of all the kids with their hands on London’s head and shoulders and arms as we prayed for her and the girl God’s making her into. I’m sad not to have those pictures.

But I’m glad I didn’t have any pictures to put on this page. Because it meant I had to use words, and words are more honest and precise.

Today was a beautiful day. It was a celebration of a little girl I love so much I could explode. But it wasn’t much better than yesterday when she and I got lost in Angie’s neighborhood and had to stop and pray for God to help us find our way, and London suggested that perhaps we were lost because we’d accidentally travelled back in time. And it wasn’t better than tonight when London and Eve and Justin and I cuddled on the couch watching The Gabby Douglass Movie and eating pizza.

Sometimes special days are special. And sometimes they’re not as special as we’d hoped. That’s okay. Our life with London is sprinkled with special, sprinkled liberally the way she sprinkles chocolate pieces on her fancy hot chocolate.

Tonight I’m vowing to never force special. To accept it on its own terms. And enjoy it when it comes.