Maggie turned ten on Saturday.
At least we think she did. We can’t know for sure.
In the months before we went to meet her in her home town of Hefei in the Anhui province of China, we had documentation that said that she was born on October 2, 1996. When we got there, we had a long paperwork session with a government official. That paperwork said her birthday was September 2.
We asked for clarification of which date was the correct one. The government official was put off that we might be challenging the documents that he had brought with him. We were sad that we had missed Maggie’s first birthday but it meant that Maggie would be able to enter school the same year as all of her Shen sisters. If her birthday had been officially October 2 then she would have been a grade behind where she is now.
She’s tall for her age and – speaking with the bias of a proud father – very smart so she’s always fit in well with her grade level.
We’ve always told Maggie that there was a question as to when her actual birthday is. We celebrate it on September second but you never know. We do know that September 15th is the day we became parents. That was the day we were given this pudgy little gift.
It’s hard to picture her as that round little one year old given how long and lean she’s become. She looked like a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Jose Mesa (who pitched for the Cleveland Indians at the time). Now she’s tall with long legs and long arms. From time to time we see a look on her face that takes us back to that room in Hefei.
September 29th is the day she first came into our home. That’s also my birthday. But I’ve never been big on celebrating birthday or anything that puts me at the center of attention. I’ve loved being able to share the day with Maggie and celebrate her coming home.
There is, as we’ve recently found, a downside to linking celebrations. Maggie and Elena were exactly two and a half years apart. Our parents always gave the other child a present or two on the birthday girl’s day. “It’s their half birthday.”
Kim and I shook our heads in disbelief. Neither of our parents would have given any of their own kids a present to make them feel better on a siblings birthday. We wouldn’t do it ourselves – but we’re not grandparents.
Of course, that means that on Maggie’s birthday the grandparents think about the gifts not given. Maggie celebrated her birthday with all four grandparents. I have no memory of ever doing that. It’s not that that wasn’t enough for them. Just that something was missing.
On her actual birthday, Maggie had a bowling party with ten friends. Her older cousins were there as well. We had two lanes and the girls bowled for an hour and a half. At one point two girls were bowling side by side. One, an older cousin, rolled the ball right down the middle. It veered and only took down a couple of pins. Next to her, a friend let loose a ball that was way off the mark. It rolled straight for the gutter and would have dropped in for no points except that we had the bumpers up. The ball bounced off of the left bumper. It was so off the mark that it bounced across the lane until it hit the right bumper. It bounced back once more and ended up dead center for a strike. All of the pins went down.
I marveled at the metaphor. I was still thinking about it as I headed out to pick up the ice cream cake. The girls had pizza while I was out. When I got back we sang Happy Birthday and had cake and opened presents.
It was probably the first birthday Maggie has had in six years where she was absolutely the center of attention. I don’t know if she noticed how odd that was.