I believe my youngest son would have been born on Valentine’s Day had the doctor not induced labor two days before. As it was, Kyle was born on another Friday, twenty-two years ago today.
All of my children were happy “accidents.” Yet when I became pregnant with Kyle, with Bryan scarcely five months old, I took enough “friendly” abuse upfront that I knew others were being unkind behind my back. To this day I remain blissfully ignorant of the latter but fondly recall the courageous that confronted the hilarious truth head-on. One in particular stands out.
It came from my good friend Donna — one of my four “Gal-Pals” and the matron of honor at my wedding — who couldn’t stop laughing when I told her about my latest pregnancy. No, that’s not quite the truth — Donna did stop laughing long enough to call me a “Fertile Myrtle.” I’ve no doubt Donna regrets this hasty act of name-calling as she, not many months later, became unexpectedly pregnant herself. And if you’re thinking that I had the last laugh, you would be half-right — Donna told me herself and together, we shared a friendly laugh.
There’s a lot of laughing that goes on within a large family. I wish I had written half the stories that are now lost to history. But in spite of being bereft of written evidence, there are two that I will always cherish, which speak loud of the man Kyle’s become. Perhaps these two anecdotes also help explain why I’ve always felt Kyle lost out on a Valentine’s birthday.
From a very young age, Kyle has worn his heart on his sleeve. One long ago evening ,during the Christmas school holidays, my husband, the boys and I were enjoying some rare family time together. We were watching television from our bed when a three-year old Kyle plastered himself next to my husband; when he could get no closer, Kyle looked up into his father’s eyes, and said in his small sing-song toddler voice, “Daddy, you are my berry best friend.”
Kyle’s best friend, in one way or another, has always been his older brother Bryan. But being so close in age, these boys had all sorts of skirmishes over nothing that began early in life. At one point, the sounds of fighting were so common that they sort of faded into the background of a strange normality.
I guess the fights prepared Kyle for his one and only battle outside of home, which came when my seven-year old son saw boys at daycare pinching off the wings of dragonflies. When Kyle told me about it, I expressed sadness; I told Kyle that dragonflies were good, as they helped us battle our mosquito population. So the next day, when it happened again, and the boys didn’t heed Kyle’s warning, Kyle became a defender of the dragonfly, resulting in a few scrapes and bruises all around. Though I probably encouraged Kyle to settle future differences without physical fighting, I was nevertheless proud of Kyle’s compassion for those in need of a champion.
Maybe it’s because I’m reading Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, that my recollection of Kyle’s daycare fight all those years ago now causes me to recall a more famous compassionate champion born on this day two hundred and one years ago; I refer, of course, to the sixteenth President of our United States, Abraham Lincoln.
The United States recognizes Black History during the month of February largely due to Lincoln’s birthday. But even if Lincoln were the sole reason, it would be enough. Not only did Lincoln courageously battle negative public opinion, he did it while watching the nation divide, which ultimately caused brother to fight against brother. Before losing his life to the bullet of an assassin, before winning the war to keep our union together, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to that strange “normality” of slavery. Regarded by most as our greatest president, we remember Lincoln as defender of our great union and champion of those without voice.
For those who engage in battles of the heart, February the Twelfth makes a very fine birthday indeed.
I’ve always been sad that “Presidents Day” was created, lumping Lincoln and Washington into the same celebration. Neither of them gets as much individual recognition as they deserve because of it.
Your phrase “the war to keep our union together” reminds me that, when I moved to Texas, I discovered the “Civil War” I’d learned about in Iowa often was referred to as “The War Between the States”. Somewhat later, as I moved more deeply into Louisiana and Mississippi, I was startled to discover there had been a “War of Yankee Agression”. When it comes to history, perspective is everything – no wonder writing textbooks becomes such a battleground today.
Oh, yes. I do share your sadness that we blended and homogenized two great president’s birthdays under one generic label.
Perspective is a funny thing — time as well as distance changes it — even words change our minds about something we’ve held as truth for so long. This post, for instance, did not have this conclusion when I began it. I had planned to end it with a heart-shaped cake, which I always bake for Kyle and probably will as long as I’m able. But the words I wrote yesterday, I believe, re-shaped my perspective.
Writing opens up horizons to help us gain a much broader perspective, doesn’t it? Writing become a good battleground for matters of the heart.
I am so glad to have Kylie Smilie in my life! What a great brother–full of love, surprises, creativty and noises! I am glad you were a fertile myrtle!
Yes to all your “spot-on” adjectives. It will be good to gather around a belated birthday cake on Saturday to sing Smiley a little birthday ditty.