|Zuzu at 23 months. I love when she scribbles with a pen on scrap paper. Partly because she's so seriously cute about it, and partly because she's quiet, content, and confined!|
Planning birthday parties will always be a little bittersweet for me. It still feels like such a joy and a privilege to celebrate the day Zuzu was born, and doing it in the summertime means there are lots of possibilities for places and types of parties, especially for a girl who loves being "out-sigh!"
I felt lucky to have a July birthday when I was growing up and always felt kind of sorry for kids (like my brother in October) who had to go to school on their birthdays. (Treats at school didn't make up for summer days of fun, in my opinion). I frequently got to have pool parties or parties that involved being outdoors in some way.
When we were expecting a winter baby, I remember thinking a lot about how we would celebrate a birthday in the cold months, and dreaming of things like ice skating in Forest Park, taking groups of giggly girls to the movies, making a special trip to the American Girl doll store, going to the Fox theatre, and even renting a room at a hotel with an indoor pool. I knew we might have to get creative, but I was pretty sure we could come up with eighteen amazing ways to celebrate our girl, even if it was snowing outside.
Now we will (hopefully) have two summer birthdays to celebrate, and I will be thrilled to have two summer babies and two summer parties to plan. My grief is lighter this time of year, and that makes the whole process easier (although my heart will always ache for my good friends whose losses come in the sunny months of spring and summer). Birthday party planning may be easier when the weather is warm, but I'll always miss those winter celebrations I so vividly imagined. December 6th will never go by when I won't wish that we were figuring out how to throw another party for Eliza, instead of marking another year without her here.
Every year with Zuzu is a reminder of what a gift we've been given, but it's also a reminder that our other daughter didn't get to celebrate any birthdays, and there's just no way around the fact that it's really hard to deal with that mix of joy and grief. I ugly-cried after Zuzu's birthday last year because it had been so great and it was heartbreaking to think of the stark contrast between it and the one year anniversary of Eliza's birth.
But joy and grief are not a two-sided coin. I don't choose one or the other. I carry them both with me always. I'll never allow my grief for Eliza to prevent me from fully celebrating and appreciating Zuzu. But in much the same way, the joy that Zuzu brings us will never diminish or make up for losing her big sister. It's not a zero sum game, after all. One life doesn't balance death when it comes to babies or anyone we love. We just do the best we can to honor Eliza's short life and all she taught us about unearned, unconditional, unending love--and one way we can do that is by pouring that same love into planning a day to party like a two-year-old. (Hint: it will involve splashing!).