ash turns five.
anthony david karl palmer gaiman is five today (well, today in america, yesterday here in aoteroa).
greetings from the dining table in havelock north.
this is the first time i’ve ever produced a full kid-birthday-day.
when he was four, his birthday wasn’t a thing of much consequence. we went to a pal’s house for cake and presents. this year, it’s been months of anticipation, sought-after gifts, food discussions, and the fact that if i compare his memory bank to that of my own child-head, this may be the first birthday he remembers. i wanted it to be really good. he’s also far from home, there’s a global pandemic raging, everything is going to hell in a handbasket, he hasn’t seen his dad in five months, and he’s just generally aware that Not All Is Well. so i wanted, especially, to just let everything else in my life slide and focus on this goddam child for a second.
doing a full child birthday-day 24/7 is sort of like nothing i’ve ever experienced. it’s sort of like being on tour on a huge show day: there are little mundane moments but youre floating in a different headspace. even the mundane things you do: brushing your teeth, answering an email, doing a dish, it all is under the umbrella of this much larger thing you must serve (there is a show for 4,000 people tonight, and i must focus; there is a child whose day must not suck, and i must focus).
i’ve also been reflecting about these past months and how the woven basket of humanity has curled around us in its inimitable way, making ash’s happiness possible. from the neighbors to the actual people in government in aotearoa, i mean…
it’s taken a serious village.
so this was his borthday day….and i’m writing this also for neil, so he can share in the stories, and for my family, and for me, later, and maybe for grown-upper ash, later, so he can see how very loved he was.
ok first of all, there were no dead rabbits to be seen anywhere.
beautiful xanthea o’connor, my lockdown veteran ally, spent the night; we got up at 6 am & surprise-decorated the bedroom & kitchen with shiny things that he’d see when he got up.
do you see a butt?
he loved it.
xanthea and i whipped out the paintbox and made birthday signs in the kitchen.
i painted a butt.
dada sent an R2D2 and so many other gifts including his old star wars comic collection…
and family and friends from all over sent little packages from around the world…los angeles, london, the netherlands, new york.
ash was so happy, ripping boxes open. xanthea got him some yoda presents.
and this 5! pancake you see is xanthea’s handiwork….(not pictured: the butt pancake, which is like two pancakes squished together, and really does look butt-like…)
he is looking up at the wall and laughing at the butt i painted.
okay so here is the butt, next to the clock, taken later in the day:
that is not a PIMPLE, as xanthea thought, nor is it a CANCEROUS GROWTH as another person thought
it is a BEAUTY MARK
we took an 8am field trip to the local post office IN OUR PAJAMAS to see if there were any last-minute birthday gifts waiting (there were). that backfired a bit because ash then insisted he could wear only pajamas to school.
ash loves this post office box more than anything. we walk there almost every day after school to see if anyone has sent him a postcard or a package or something. he has the number memorized and will happily recite it to strangers.
the ladies at the post office were sort of amused but not really
fed ex is his friend
i say all the time that i am “single parenting”, but i know i am not, not really.
neil, from so far away, is trying his damndest to be the best long-distance dad he can be. he sends cards and books and gifts and is on the phone with ash almost every day, sometimes twice a day. he spent most of ash’s birthday morning with us over facetime. it was weird…but we’ve gotten used to that. it’s still dad, and it’s still love.
love the key. ash knows his dad misses and loves him, he feels it, he knows it in his bones….and that is the biggest thing.
i have help when i need it here, and xanthea has carried a huge load along with me. she’s been a real sister-friend and we’ve become our own fully weirdly-functional family.
here they are at XANTHEA’S birthday party a few days ago. we went out in style….
fancy fancy…this is high tea. we figured why not. that’s kya on the far left, then lynda of the pinball people, ash, xanthea, and lou, who runs wardini’s bookstore…and me…
the friends that i’ve made in the area have supported me so deeply – especially coming out of lockdown.
i mean, two of those magic new-people just brought over a goddamn PINBALL MACHINE which became ash’s biggest birthday surprise after school; we get to borrow it for a week. he has been obsessed with pinball since getting here and going over to lynda’s house and seeing the machines they have.
so i asked if we could borrow one for ash’s birthday and lynda and adam were like sure why not and here’s lynda and adam unloading it and setting it up. HES GONNA FREAK. THIS IS HIS FAVORITE PINBALL MACHINE TO PLAY, AND IT WILL BE IN HIS HOUSE.
it was a sneaky move in, under cover of night, while ash slept.
i sang the “mission impossible” theme.
the pinball people are my faves
ash’s school made him a cake & they all celebrated him when we walked in the door….
it was gorgeous.
he was only in school for a half day because all of the family-zooming….i went home and collapsed for a second.
after school we went to the EPIC CANDY STORE and ash got to fill an entire basket with his favorite treats…
this is us with rosheen and all her beautiful kids (minus seamus, who’s taking the picture), and kya and little izzy….
rosheen made ash the most beautiful and creepy present of them all, and he LOVED it…
this was the card….
the more amazing thing, though this card is amazing. is that ash read it almost 95% by himself. his reading is getting so, so good.
then we went home and UNVEILED THE PINBALL. ash was so awestruck he said no words and just barreled in and started playing.
i think he was overwhelmed.
then we went for pizza and cake at the wonderful local joint that ash calls “the pink pizza palace”, pipi’s.
that’s ash and aidan at cake-time. photo by kya….
i dream of pizza
ash was gifted a beautiful greenstone necklace, “just like mama’s”, to keep him protected and strong, and a darth vadar who kept watch over him all breakfast this morning.
this morning, in the birthday aftermath, i created a new tradition to go along with the chocolate egg before birthday sleep, which also echoes one of my favorite rituals my sister and i used to adore when visiting our cousin katherine, who was like our favorite auntie growing up: chocolate cake for breakfast.
this will now be a thing every year.
the village raises ash.
it also raises me.
my friends from overseas – the parents of kids, especially – have been on text and phone with me, propping me up, crying with me, being my rocks in this strange, strange time.
so many moms have reached out to me over the last few days and just been beautiful, soulful supports. we’ve had good talks late into the night.
i want to weep with gratitude most of the time. i have so much beautiful fucking support, and i know it. my band of friends has really brought it for me as i’ve been down here, and even as they have been navigating their own hells of change and uncertainty. even though i’ve been far from the states, many friendships have deepened and taken root in new ways as my network of working moms and performers tightens itself. we hold each other in the dark and we say the true things, and we advise, and we listen, and we grimace, and we all hold each other.
and all of you, my patrons….you may not realize it, but your emotional support, over the phone, over text, in direct messages, and in these post comments….it’s all helped me.
not just to be an artist, but to be a mother.
i cannot do it alone. i do not do it alone. and i do not take it for granted.
as corny as it may sound, you patrons have really carried me through the last six months. the gentle support, the forgiveness of late projects, the comments of seeing-=ness, and general “we got your back, amanda” of you 15,000 folks is another sacred kind of family in my life; and i treasure you all.
my actual “present, that he could unwrap, was very humble.
i special-ordered this copy of one of our favorite books to read, which got left behind in the grand shuffle to aotearoa.
it’s one of my favorite books to read to him, and when i’m fragil enough, the last few pages make me cry.
it’s called “hello, lighthouse” by sophie blackall
when we finally lit the candles last night and went to read it in bed, i did something i’d never done before.
ash fell asleep, four pages into the book, on my chest.
and i kept reading, out loud, to nobody, even though he was snoring.
to nobody? really?
maybe to me.
the book is about a lighthouse and a family. in the last few pages, the family has to leave the lighthouse, and they move across the water….but they still manage to send light signals across the water so the lighthouse won’t feel too lonely.
hello, says the lighthouse.
hello, hello, hello.
stop crying, amanda.
dear little ash.
you used to be in my belly, and now you’re always on it.
you are my little light and little shadow, and my most honest critic, and my mostly companion, and a piece of my heart.
you get me out of bed in the morning. you make me adult. you make me care less about my ego and my appaearance at all levels. you make me a better person, ashy, every day a little more.
you are pure joy and i feel so honored to be your mama….
i love you, my angel-imp boy.
i know i cannot give you everything you want right now.
sometimes it hurts me that i cannot.
but i am wiser than i used to be, and the world is a strange shape, and i know, at my core, that we have what we need.
happy birthday, ash.
p.p.s. we haven’t GOTTEN to the epic ACTUAL birthday PARTY that we are throwing for him on saturday. there will be drag queens, a magician, face-painting, and multiple piñatas. and pinball of course.
p.p.s. tossing in a few beautiful photos that wonderful maria popova, aka brainpicker, just sent me of me and ash’s birth week at the farm. that’s neil’s giant hand.