I couldn’t be prouder of our Kimi, or happier to be alive.
Birthdays – indeed life – in this time of Coronavirus aren’t what they used to be. Like most teenagers, she misses her friends like crazy, and was sad as her full schedule of activities and events was cancelled, but she is handling this iso-plus-mask regime with her usual cheerfulness, empathy, resilience, humour and style.
Kimi was remarkably magnanimous when I had to cancel her 5th birthday party because I had pneumonia; I still felt the need to assuage mother-guilt by bunging on a rainbow extravaganza the following year. A strategic game of ‘sleeping lions’ provided a few minutes’ reprieve from a hallful of sugared-up primary schoolers.
A few months after my MND diagnosis we went to Japan, where the heavens conspired to deliver an unseasonal dusting of 7th-birthday-cum-Easter-Sunday Spring snow, and each meeting with friends became a tanjoubi celebration. We had planned a small expedition to Luna Park on our return to Sydney, but (in today’s corporatespeak) had to agilely pivot, replacing rained-out rides with birthday cake in the bar.
Kimi’s Guide-leader Aunty Anne and cousin Susy hosted a ‘messy’ 8th birthday party, in which several games featured chocolate and donuts, and the kids painted pots and took home daffodil bulbs. For 9, we took a handful on a mystery adventure: train to Milsons Point, a scoot round Coney Island (Kimi’s cousin Hannah stepping in as wrangler while I awaited an undignified rescue from a toilet floor topple), ferry to Circular Quay, ‘Is it ice cream time?’, the scale model of the city under Customs House’s glass floor, an amble past outdoor sculpture installations, and the surreptitious maths puzzle of setting the girls loose in a lolly shop with a lolly bag budget.
We continued with small groups for the next few years. Double digits were celebrated by traipsing off to the local pool, then compensating by scoffing pizza. The following year we had ‘sophisticated’ takes on kids party games: ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ wearing upside down glasses, pass the parcel on the trampoline, musical whoopie cushions.
With high school (and my tethering to a bipap machine), Kimi and her few-days-older neighbour-friend took to organising their own combined parties. For 12, I was able to contribute feline themed party favours, and the group negotiated the wheelchair inaccessible journey between next door and our place so I could be present for the cake. Kimi became a teenager five months into my stint in ICU. A wonderful collaborative effort by hospital staff enabled a family escape to the city to see Tim Minchin’s comedy show. But I wasn’t involved in the birthday party with friends, which Kimi reported as ‘chillaxed’.
And now she is 14! Kimi opened her first present before online-school at my bedroom door, as carers started getting me up. A carer brought home made banana bread. Deliveries from local businesses arrived at fortuitous times, so that Kimi emerged from her bed/class-room to a lounge room festooned with balloons, and later birthday cake. There were more presents (and apologies for the gift voucher offering at best delayed gratification), and lovely FaceTime happy birthdays, cards, drawings and messages from others in iso. Densil, as always, took photos, and marked her height on the door frame. No face-to-face time with friends, but I trust Kimi knows how special and loved she is. Happy 14th!