The kids bomb through the house, headed for the back bedroom where Grandma keeps a box of toys – balls, Hot Wheels, assorted action figures; leftovers from childhoods their parents have outgrown.
One little man comes out with a toy microphone, one of those cheap, plastic things that echo when you speak into it and it sounds like it is “live.” “Birthday to you,” he sings. “Birthday to you.” We all smile at him and he does a little, sideways dance, shifting from one hip to the other to a melody only he hears. He gives a hearty laugh and goes back to his singing.
All nine grandchildren are growing fast, all healthy and robust.
* * *
I sweep through the house looking for toys left behind by little hands – the caboose of a wooden train set, an orange ball, the microphone that entertained us all earlier.
I carry them in my arms, returning them where they go. I sing into the microphone, “Birthday to you,” remembering one little charmer, my grandson who never reached his second birthday.
His little hands never got to play with Grandma’s box of rescued toys. We never got to sing songs, read books together, or laugh at silly tickles.
But my love for him is tucked into my heart, right next to where I safe keep his memory.
I will always love you, sweetheart.