Love + Family: The Birthday

Love + Family: The Birthday by Ashley Barron Read Free Book Online

Book: Love + Family: The Birthday by Ashley Barron Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ashley Barron
Tags: Daughter, Mother, dog, son, husband, birthday, surprise party
    THE BIRTHDAY Copyright © 2011 by Ashley
    All rights reserved. No part of this book may
be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means,
including information storage and retrieval systems, without
permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer who may
quote brief passages in a review.
    Smashwords Edition: November 2011
    Follow Ashley on
Twitter: @dcPriya
    Read Ashley’s blog:
    The Birthday
    “ D o you love me?”
    I sweep narrowed eyes over my young son. My
mind churns with suspicion. Is it report card time? No. Did I hear
glass breaking in last few minutes? No. Is that absurd reality show
on tonight—the one he insists he’s old enough to watch? No.
    I’m not sure.
    I’m standing in the doorway of our somewhat
untidy, recently remodeled kitchen. The front of my hair is wrapped
in Velcro curlers, and I’m doing my best to conceal a quick glance
at the oven clock.
    Time is not my friend.
    With a hidden sigh, I glue both eyes to my
son’s face and soften the expression on my own. “I love you with
all my heart.”
    He doesn’t miss a beat. “If you love me, then
how come you won’t let me get that new video game?”
    Ah, the reveal.
    “The matter is settled,” I assure him.
“You’re too young for it.”
    “Mom!” My name becomes one long, pleading
wail. His knees are slightly bent, his hands clasped tightly
together, his eyebrows raised in that sweetest of sweet ways. I’ll
admit there have been a number of occasions when the tactic has
proven fruitful.
    It’s no wonder he continues to employ it.
    I ignore his whining, choosing instead to
study the cotton pajamas he’s wearing. They’re covered in his
favorite cartoon character, faded at the elbows and knees, and
stained just about everywhere in between. The fraying edges of the
pant bottoms expose mismatched socks that aren’t in any better
    How does he do that so fast? Grows taller by
the second, and still he manages to demolish his clothes with time
to spare.
    My daughter, on the other hand, hasn’t had a
stain on her clothes since she grew old enough to consciously avoid
    “Won’t work, sonny boy,” I say, lightly, as I
step to the kitchen island, reach across it, and tug my day planner
to me. With a few strokes of the pen, shopping for new pajamas
headlines tomorrow’s list of errands. “Won’t work.”
    “Well, I know you love me.” My
daughter steps out from behind her brother and tosses her hair from
one side to the other. It’s still damp from her bath.
    I study her face, so similar to my own.
Unlike me, she was born with confidence to spare. My husband and I
often marvel at her outspoken, self-assured ways. At least, when
we’re not picturing her as an independent-minded sixteen-year-old
with a driver’s license.
    So far that image eclipses fire, natural
disaster, job loss, and my husband’s mother moving in as top on our
list of greatest fears for the future.
    “Quit following me around,” I hear my son
whisper to his little sister. “I was here first.”
    And by first, what he means is that time
began at the moment of his birth. Maybe it did.
    His words make me smile, mostly because, as
the youngest of my siblings, I can’t relate to them. Back when I
was born, the general response was “Oh, look, another one.”
    I learned how to run before I could crawl,
and how to bargain before I could speak full sentences. Not even my
senior year prom dress could escape the reality of hand-me-downs in
a big family.
    I was raised with love, but not independence.
I was raised with wholesome food, but a limited menu.
    Perhaps that is why I’ve been so devoted to
finding ways to empower my children, and to show them as much of
the world as my

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