“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday Uncle Tyson…”
As we sing his 37th birthday song into the speaker phone, he is saying, “Max, please give me that car.” We hear vroom-vroom in the background, along with a baby’s cry, but the children in our living room have gathered around a djembé and are cooking up their best tribal drumming while we attempt to talk on the phone.
“So, did you do anything fun for your birthday?”
“You know, I stayed home all day for my birthday. But next year I’m going to work,” he chuckles. In the background, Max is revving his engines and sounds like he is running circles around Daddy.
My 1-year-old is jumping in the air and landing on his diaper-clad bottom on the hardwood floor, dissolving into hysterical giggles. His older sister thinks it must be fun if he’s laughing so hard, so she tries it too. Boom! Ha ha ha. Boom! Ha ha ha. Boom! Boom! Hardy-har-har!
Tyson says, “So, did you go camping recently, Rob?”
On our end, the kids are now galloping up and down the hallway, Melanie alternately dragging her brother and egging him into chasing her. The laughter and the tears are very close together.
“Yeah. Backpacking up north, actually.” A moment later, Melanie turns off the last lamp in the living room, and we are in complete darkness. Tito starts crying and walks into the coffee table. “Melanie, stop turning off the lights!” says Rob, but it’s so dark that no one can find the switch.
“Well, I should probably let you guys go.”
“Yeah,” we say. “Have a happy birthday.”
Besides the brief sentences spaced apart by screams, instructions, and pounding feet, the conversation was more like bodies on each end of the phone sharing the noises in their respective monkey houses. The thing is, phone manners aside, your thirties are not about you. These are the years of giving things up, like being the center of attention on our birthdays, or having a relaxing phone exchange in the presence of our preschool children, or laughing hard without peeing our pants.
Yep…there will be different days someday, but right now, it’s not about me. Maybe that’s the first lesson of the second half of life.