Yesterday was the official day. We woke up with Echo in the morning and Natalie squeezed her and said, “Happy Birthday.” They got up and got dressed before me, and Echo came to my side of the bed and whispered, “Papa. I’m 6.” I smiled a sleep-faced smile and croaked, “I know!”.
We all met downstairs before Xi had to be taken to school so that Echo could open a present or two, including a gift bag from Xi, first thing and while Xi was still here (so that Echo didn’t have to wait until after school to open something and Xi didn’t have to miss any openings…). Then after the school drop off, there was a round of birthday waffles, complete with requested chocolate chips; and some playing. But before long, Natalie and Echo and I set off on an unprecedented birthday adventure.
When we asked her (in the days before) what she wanted to do for her birthday, Echo replied that she wanted to “be in Nature”. So sometime midmorning, we headed to one of my oft-trodden haunts just outside of town in an area generally know as Pattee Canyon. One of the best things about Montana (still!) is that we could have actually biked to this spot — it’s that close — but far all intensive purposes, it’s wilderness. There was nothing and nobody around; and no unearthly sounds but the distant ebb-tide-wooshing of the occasional all wheel drive vehicle sliding by unseen on the dirt road on which we’d come. Even the birds were quiet as if listening just as we were.
We set off up an old fire road trail and then quickly cut upward on a game path littered with deer pellets and wildflowers. Natalie brought Echo’s Nature journal, in which Echo has been doing sketches of “Nature things”, and offered it almost immediately for Echo to render a Shooting Star that we were admiring — not one of these pictured below, but one of the other 50 or so that we saw.
For awhile, we just walked and stooped and waited for Echo to draw. I took more pictures. Natalie wandered around us, smelling trees, strolling Henry, and taking in the landscape.
We went to some of my favorite spots and visited an old wonky Ponderosa Pine friend of mine. Echo and I made a ring of pitch jewels around him, and gave him the official title of Grandfather Tree — though I think he’s a relatively young grandpa for a tree…
After that, we headed back into town and went straight to the Cultural Celebration at the montessori school that Xi attends. She has spent the last several weeks researching and studying India in preparation, and we were excited to see the culmination of all that work.
As it turned out, the presentation also included some music that the kids have been working on with the part-time music teacher as well. Here you can see a Sari-clad Xi, recorder in hand, getting ready for the song to begin.
After the performance part of the celebration, all the families went back to the classrooms to sample regional cuisine from the countries represented made by the kids, teachers, and some of the parents as well.
Following that, and after the temporary coma that the camera went into, we came home for more present-opening and a half-hour bubble party in the front yard. The girls danced and chased while Natalie and I got dizzy and feint from whirling and blowing bubbles… Next, we had a Skype-session with Bella (the eldest sister) wherein we told her a couple of the things that had been going on thus far in the day, and she regaled us all with tales of her social life. Then we biked and got the requested birthday dinner of burritos from Echo’s favorite taco shop, and took them to a park by the river that we call The Hills (coincidentally also where Echo’s party will be on Saturday) to enjoy our picnic. After dinner and some hill running and lounging in the waning sunlight, we went over to Big Dipper for some scoops of our favorite ice cream. For the first time ever, the girls both got mixed scoops — it seemed like a big kid thing to do…
When we got home, the girls played for a bit longer and then melted into beds and dreams of all the fun they’d had and all the fun yet to come on Saturday when phase 2 of the 6th Birthday celebrations will commence.
Today a few more gifts came. Right now, Echo and Xi are playing with a slew of fun new toys together in the living room. I keep sighing with both a feeling of the fleeting beauty of it all, and the warm contentment of watching my pleased and well-loved girls enjoying themselves together (both of them at such serene ease in part because they know all of these toys, and science kits, and stuffed animals, and the love represented by each — are all theirs to share in equally).
We are hoping to revive the camera before Saturday. I’ll update you on the continuing celebrations as they unfold.