For as long as I can remember, big changes have happened to me once every decade. The birth of J coincided with the end of my first marriage - those two incidents set in motion a cascading wave of events whose tumult is only beginning to subside now. Each year on J's birthday, I would find myself measuring how far into my "decade of strife" I was and in my heart I knew her tenth would be unlike any before or after. It would spell the symbolic end.
Call it what you will, determination, wishful thinking, visualizing the future as I would have it be in my dream - some combination of all that, but I visited that tenth birthday many, many times in the past. With each visit, I refined what was in and what was not, who was included and who was not not - it would be the year when things would be made "right" by J.
It would be the year when the waiting for Godot would be over, we could come out of the "phase" that we were in. I was deeply resentful of anyone who so much as suggested that my life may be subject to some limitations being a single mom, but could not deny to myself that J and I lived a little on the fringe - not entirely in the conventional way.
To that end, I would become a nervous wreck the week of J's birthday party - nothing I ever did felt quite "right"; I certainly had no ability to plan or anticipate the unexpected. Yet to prove that J and I were doing just as fine as any other family, I would get bent out of shape trying to host a birthday party for her that conveyed "normalcy". My anxiety of social situations absolutely peaked around her birthday - getting the day over with was all I could think about. Yet I did not want to disappoint her or have her sense how I was feeling - that would be unfair.
This year, DB stepped in and made the day seem easier than it has in nine years. We had seven of J's friends over. The had chips and salsa, pizza and ice-cream cake along with pink lemonade and ginger ale. We hosted a bunch of chatty little girls happy to play hide and seek and lounge around the big TV in the basement - no one wanted to leave when the parents came to pick them up. There was absolutely nothing complicated about what we did. We had no theme for the party, no games or activities organized, we cooked nothing - and yet everyone had a great time.
In years past, I did a lot more and only feel stressed and dissatisfied with the outcome - the more I strove to give the impression that I had everything under control and could pull of what a stay at home mom could (single-handedly no less), the more contrived the results would be. The combination of a home and a partner made such a world of difference - the two things that had been missing for the the past decade. J had a "regular" tenth birthday that had her surrounded by family and friends in her own home - just as I had always wanted it to be. For once, I did not have to try too hard.