7/29/00: Mr. ABF and I, after almost 13 years of "dating," get married, in the meadow on my aunt's farm, ceremony began at 5:30 p.m.
7/29/04: Bella is born, coincidentally, shortly after 5:30 p.m.
7/29/06: We are homeless -- our house closed on Friday, 7/28, and we don't move into our new house until Monday, 7/31. On 7/29, we celebrate Bella's birthday with family at my aunt's farm. As part of the celebration, we announce our pregnancy.
7/29/07: We are without one of our children now, in our new home. I loathe to celebrate one child's birthday because it reminds me so painfully of the one I cannot celebrate at all. I can't bear to have a party at my aunt's, surrounded by the ghosts of last year, and so we have it at our house, surrounded by neighbors. That night, in lieu of sitting alone and crying into a glass of something, I invite 30 neighbors over to celebrate our anniversary with us. The crowd, cake, and champagne blur the memories considerably.
7/29/08: Bella turns four; Mr. ABF and I celebrate eight years of marriage and, well, everything else, together.
On one of the first days of "Statistics (for Poets)," a required course en route to my PhD, the professor (who I adored) walked us through the "Birthday Problem" using our class -- about 100 people if not more. Of course we were all stunned that two people in the class did indeed have the same birthday, even though he had just explained (moments earlier) the probability of that occurrence was, according to the formula, fairly high.
The odds that Bella's birthday would fall on our anniversary, according to the formula, are a bit more slim. I suppose if we bump up the variable on birthdays to include not only those (2, ours) but anniversaries (1) to 3, than it creeps up a notch. But in the end, as we all well know about probability, it happened, so the formula is rather moot. And as the stats guy sez, "the sum of the probability that an event will happen and the probability that the event won't happen is always 1. (In other words, the chance that anything might or might not happen is always 100%.)" Ain't that the truth.
I have had numerous occasions to think of this parlor trick over the past year and a half as days have become increasingly significant to me. And I guess if we -- all of us here in this corner of blogland -- were to plug all of our respective important dates into the formula, the probability that there would be an overlap is high. Only 365 days, a whole smattering of us, and a plethora of important dates. Somewhere, someones' important days would collide.
But knowing this didn't prepare me. Earlier this year, someone pointed me toward Janis. And one night I sat and read and cried through her archives. And discovered, on a sharp intake of breath, that Ferdinand's birthday is also July 29.
Dates on the calendar are just meaningless jibberish to me that I use to ink up the occasional paper check I still write, unless they're dates. Dates of significance. I was never much of a Christmas person, or a birthday person for that matter, so having a child on some high, holy occasion like that never gave me the willies. But two days in advance of our fourth anniversary, a week before my due date, suddenly feeling what seemed to my untrained eye and body a gush of water from my nether-regions, I knew my child would become the center of my attention from second one by usurping my one cheerful holiday that I could persumably count on for a small gift or at the very least, a good dinner out. No more.
Now, these birthaversaries are a jumble of frenetic planning amidst a undercurrent of sadness, remembering the daughter who lacks such attention, who lacks friends and goody bags and meaningless plastic crap from far-flung relatives. The anniversary which will always now stress the "for better or way worse than we ever imagined" part. The ghost of what could be.
And it comes to my attention, when I start to feel that glow inside -- not quite joy yet, but the inner smile that instinctively and surprisingly comes when I watch Bella propel herself around the block on her bike -- that days are like this: one person's joyous day is someone else's hell. One person's red-penned-heart around a number on the calendar is the day someone else would like to erase and go through comatose. The Norman-Rockwell-esque holiday, replete with dad carving the turkey in front of the snow-framed window for one person, is paralleled by someone else receiving the worst news of their lives. On days we remember the living, I now find it difficult not to remember the dead.
There would be a touch of joy and a touch of sadness today, without knowledge of Ferdinand. There will always be a ghost at our celebrations now, a missing person who should be staring in wonder at the cake, a child we don't get to leave at home with the babysitter. Our marriage will forever be marked by glorious adventures, a marvelous birth, and a trip through the inferno. As such, I will never forget the day Ferdinand was brought into this world, birthed by his mother while I undoubtedly sulked around a tray of cupcakes hoping I didn't look too depressed. I will never forget his birthday, because it is now woven into the magic of dates that guides my life: July 29.
Happy Birthday, Ferdinand.
Happy Birthday, Bella.
Happy Anniversary, us.
One day. One measly 24-hour day, a number. Packed with so very much of then, now, and never.