i’m not one to allow a big thing to be made of my own birthday.
in fact, years past while living with my eldest daughter’s father, when he’d invite all of our (his) friends for a party using my birthday as an excuse, i used the occasion to gift the revelers instead.
“but it’s your birthday, not mine” they’d say.
“yeah, but my memory’s horrid. i might forget yours when it comes around, so happy birthday!” i’d answer.
so it was that friday night when ziona and i went to my mom’s for a birthday gathering she had initiated, i brought mom an electric griddle for her birthday (upcoming) and my sister some specialty coffees for her cappacino machine.
but the most fun thing about this celebration was the kids.
ziona’s cousins lexi and mikey, (i used to care for them while their mother worked), were there. it is always so much fun to hear the ring of children’s laughter. and they all like me alot because i’m so childish. chasing them pretending to be a tickle monster, turning them upside-down and swinging them about. all great fun. and ziona plays so well with them, perhaps because they used to spend 8 to 10 hours a day at our house, 7 days a week for a couple of years. but maybe not because of that.
ziona spent more than two years, from the time she was 9 months old until a month after her 3rd birthday, in a special toddler program for kids with autism. in all her time there, the closest she’d ever come to interaction was a sort of mirrored ‘parallel play’. a common thing with many autistic kids is the lack of direct interaction. so i was thrilled when we moved here to florida, and at their very first meeting, ziona took to lexi like a long lost friend.
there came a time, tho, when lexi totally betrayed ziona and joined some mean kids in the play area at a chic-fil-a in teasing her on the occasion of her first time out of the house in a dress.
ziona’s hair was very short due to an attempt she’d made at cutting some bangs (to look more girl-like) and so i’d had to cut it to try to even it out. she was very sad and self-conscious of having such a short hairdo so i’d cut mine just as short. it was actually much cooler for us with the summer heat here in the south.
but some of the kids had started to taunt her for being ‘a boy in a dress’ and lexi is a bit of a follower, so instead of standing up for her cousin and friend, she joined the crowd of bullies. of course, ziona didn’t pick up on the fact that the kids were teasing her, until lexi started saying stuff like “yeah, he even plays with barbies” a fact she only knew because they played with them together and she and her mom had even bought her some of them for christmas.
of course i was in the play area with the kids, as every parent is supposed to be when their child goes in there.(i was the only one, as usual) just as ziona had realised that her cousin, her friend lexi was teasing her she looked over to see me gesturing her to ‘come out and eat our food now’. the expression on her face was hurt and confusion.
as she came over to me one of the kids exiting the play area behind us said, “oooh, look! a boy in a dress!”
i spun around and faced the child and said. “what did you say? this is my daughter! i have short hair too. am i a boy in a dress?” the child’s mother admonished her child saying “that’s a girl. now shut up and come over here and eat.”
the relationship between lexi and ziona took well over a year to heal. it was hard for ziona to understand lexi’s behaviour. i explained again and again how some people just aren’t strong enough not to follow the pack, so to speak.
eventually, she forgave her cousin. and they began to have play dates again. my mom did her best to help lexi understand about ziona. why it is she is who she is. no small feat since my mom has told me that she herself doesn’t quite understand it. still, both lexi and my mom have used the female pronoun in referring to ziona. and the unhappy incident at chic-fil-a is a thing of the past.
watching them play together at my birthday party was perhaps the best gift i’d received. when they decided to put on a ‘show’, as lexi likes to do, lexi went out of her way NOT to cast ziona as the daddy, (there was a skit about a family involved) and instead they were the mommy, the transgender mommy and the baby. it was adorable!
as birthdays go this one was right up there as one of the most special i’ve had in recent memory.
so i came home afterward,put ziona to bed, then put on my laurie anderson mp3 that has the song that says “you were born, so you’re free, so happy birthday” and danced around my living room like a crazy person.