Nine birthdays minus seven birthdays equals two birthdays.
And Cheeky counts them. Last year. This year.
Just as she counted her gifts this morning and noted that she had two more than she did on her eighth birthday.
Does that mean we love her more now than we did then?
Probably didn't even cross her mind to think it, but it skittered through my head after she announced her discovery.
Today, more than ever, I think of birth mom. Though, I can not know the exact date of Cheeky's birth, I know that in March, nine years ago, a woman carried Cheeky in her womb. I am sure she dreamed of who her daughter would be. I wonder if she had any visceral clue that things would not be as she imagined.
It makes me sad to think about, because I have been able to raise the four children I gave birth to. The one I lost, I lost through no fault of mine or anyone else. It happened, as it sometimes does, and I mourned, and I go on.
How would I go on if that child were somewhere in the world, alive but out of my reach?
That is what I think about at the end of March when the gray clouds billow over the mountains and the air just begins to smell of spring.
What if the shoe were on the other foot, and someone, somewhere was raising the child I'd carried and dreamed about and hoped for? What would every passing year feel like with that emptiness in my heart?
I think that when I tell Cheeky her story, I must be careful not to put my own emotions into it, but I also think that it is not wrong to say, "You are still in her heart."
It is, after all, the rare mother who does not feel the invisible bond, the stretching cord, the tether that ties one life to another when those lives were once so intricately connected.
Cheeky's birth mom must feel that when winter cold turns to chilly spring and short days grow longer. She must feel that straining, stretching reaching cord, and she must wonder what happened to the white haired child she once carried.
She is with me, I want to say to her.
She is safe.
She is loved.
As much as your heart holds her, so does mine.
But, I can't say those things to Birth Mom any more than she can reach back across nine years and thousands of miles, look into Cheeky's magical face and say, "I claim you as mine."
Still, Cheeky is hers, too.
Her claim is through blood and that tightly tethered cord.
Mine is through time and everday providing.
And that, in itself, is a cord and a tie that holds her to my heart.
So, today, my sweet Cheeky is nine. I know her better now than I did a year ago. In another year, I will know her better still. Just as she will know me. Ten birthdays minus seven birthdays will equal three. Until another year follows another and another. And, one day, the years together will far outnumber the years apart.
But always, always that stretching cord will exist between my Cheeky and her birth mom.
And, it will be as it should.
That shadowy nebulous mother and me.
This is what I think as gray clouds bring spring rain and robins troll for food.
But, mostly on this day of all days, I think, "Dear Cheeky, I love you, and I am so very, very blessed to have you as my daughter."
Perhaps it is true that nine birthdays minus seven birthdays equals two, but in my mind, in my heart, in the deepest part of who I am, nine birthdays minus seven birthdays equals love. Mine for her. Hers for me. Our own tight tether, our own silky cord. Love that didn't have to be, but is. And, maybe, that is the most special love of all.
Happy, happy birthday, my darling Cheeky!