Day 6–Mary’s Birthday

   Mary turns 17! She had planned a birthday party with 9 friends from school that included s’mores and a bonfire on our vineyard. But it had to be canceled due to the Italian restrictions which people call #iorestoacasa (“#I stay at home”). We had payed an unconscionable amount for marshmallows and graham crackers, and now they remain in a cardboard box. That’s okay–not exactly fresh food. If you buried them and dug them up 100 years from now, the marshmallows would probably still look exactly the same. So, I remind myself, we have a while. More pressing upon me was how to compensate for the lack of a party. As the mother of an extreme extrovert who loooooooves her birthday, I prayed that the Lord would create a way for it to be a good day for her.
     My main thought was “Home videos.” We have a precious box of video tapes from all our married life, and our family has hardly ever watched them. I thought, “Let’s look at Mary as a baby and as she grew up.” As an extra precautionary measure, we started the day before her birthday just to get the happiness flowing before sadness set in. And so it did: We all laughed and cooed and delighted in the videos of little Mary Lou who was an adorable little 6 pound lump of sweetness. The next day, we watched the first three years of her life, and Jacob and Baby Clare also had starring roles.
    Annie woke up the morning of Mary’s birthday and started making paper chains out of construction paper. It took her 4 hours but she got 2 strands hung, crossing each other diagonally across the room.  We got a “Happy Birthday” sign hung that we brought with us from the States. Annie then baked a cake and made Mary a large card. All this took her most of the morning and afternoon. When I started preparing dinner, she joined me and made the zucchini. Honestly, she worked on Mary’s birthday for 10 hours! We applauded Annie at the beginning of the birthday dinner. What an amazing capacity she has to stick with all the work that goes into a celebration–I wonder how God will use her gifts one day. She brings joy and love to others with gusto.
    Mary’s birthday was quiet in the morning because the older kids were on doing online school. But it really got rolling when we all congregated for her birthday. We gave her her two gifts. The first was a plane ticket to go back to Texas to see her friends. We hope that she can use it as planned in May, but if it has to be postponed, so be it. She cried and cried and was so thankful. Then, Ron gave her an acoustic guitar, which was awesome because she had borrowed his guitar all last year but banged and scratched it up and he was a little nonplussed about the whole thing. His is a fine classical guitar, but she likes to strum and sing. So, she was overjoyed that now she has her very own to bang up all she wants! She immediately recognized the guitar gift as “good timing” since it is such a stress-reliever and something that can fan the flames of faith and joy when you need them the most.
    She was also greatly cheered by a visit from her boyfriend, Giacomo, whose mother drove him by our house and let him get out of the car and talk with Mary for a few minutes and give her a red rose. What a sweet boy he is. Giacomo is a really nice addition to our life right now. She was also deeply grateful for the phone calls and birthday wishes from various family and friends–she felt very loved.
    After a big dinner, we watched Clare’s first 6 months on video. What really stood out was how she was treated as such royalty: visits from Granny and Papa Harville, Aunt Mara, Leah staying for a couple of months, appearances from Aunt Kimmy, the Rombses, and lots of references of the Hayes and all our Louisiana friends. These wonderful family and friends spent so much time with Jacob and Mary that I was able to dote on Clare nonstop. The videos reveal a happy, content little baby who had an A+ start to life. Our home really was a peaceful, happy place. Clare seemed really taken with the films. At the end, she hugged me. . . then Mary cried out, “Group hug!” and she piled on and then Leigh dog piled as well. Mary said to Ron and me, “I really thank you for making this such a wonderful birthday.” God is very, very good. I went to bed so grateful for our amazing 21 years of family life and pouring out prayers for Mary Lucinda, that the year ahead would bring a flowering of faith, peace, tranquility, trust, and virtue. God, thank you for my precious Mary Lucinda and this whole family!