When my kids have a birthday, I always make a big deal out of getting the last six-year-old kiss or last seven-year-old kiss or last ten-year-old kiss. Since I am the parent who puts the kids to bed, I've almost always managed to be the person to get that last kiss the night before the birthday. The night before my last birthday, when I was putting him to bed, With-a-Why asked for my last 43-year-old kiss.
One of our other birthday traditions is a candle ceremony. That's what we call it. Everyone in the house grabs a candle and gathers around the table. In our house we have candles everywhere - on shelves, window sills, the mantle - so it isn't hard to find a candle. We light the candles and turn out the lights. Then we go around the circle and each person says something nice about the person we are celebrating.
Since I've got a house full of adolescents (extras are sometimes included in the ceremony), the ceremony is far less solemn than you might think. All kinds of joking around is mixed in with the compliments. Yet despite the informality, there is still a seriousness and intimacy about sitting in the dark, with faces lit only by candlelight. The sibling will blush and look pleased when his sister says how much she loves him.
This week we had a candle ceremony for Boy in Black. What made the ceremony special is that Daughter was home for it. The boys have been so excited about having her back home. Sunday afternoon, I went into her tiny bedroom - where she was unpacking boxes of books and clothes - and noticed that all three of her brothers were huddled on the bed, watching her unpack, talking and laughing, an adoring audience to anything she said.
Boy in Black had been teasing me the last week or two about how I wasn't going to get his last sixteen-year-old kiss. All kinds of girls were lined up wanting it. And he was right. I didn't get it. Five minutes before midnight, the night before his birthday, he gave his last sixteen-year-old kiss to his sister.