Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter and Sailor Boy went out to buy birthday presents; they called to say that they’d pick up Drama Niece on their way home. Boy-in-Black and Blonde Niece went to the grocery store to buy cookies, granola, fruit, and gallons of chocolate milk. Smiley Girl cleaned the kitchen while Shaggy Hair Boy picked With-a-Why up from his piano lesson. I carried logs in to build a fire. My husband texted to say he'd be home soon.
As everyone began to gather in our living room, I brought out dozens of beeswax candles from the monastery.
“No candles near the laptops!” warned Boy-in-Black. Our living room has so many little tables that it looks like a library or coffee shop, and my kids have strict rules about their computers. Drinks and melting wax are not allowed near the piano or on any little table that holds a laptop. So I pulled over several wooden stools. Soon plates of candles were balanced amongst the bodies and laptops crowded into the living room.
The many little flames combined with the glowing logs in the fireplace lit the faces of the kids as they talked, telling stories and funny anecdotes about the two teenagers whose birthdays we were celebrating: Drama Niece and Smiley Girl.
I’ve known Smiley Girl for more than a year now — she was my student before she started dating Shaggy Hair Boy — and I’ve known Drama Niece her whole life. I well remembered the morning of her birth. “I held you when you were just minutes old,” I said.
“You win at the candle ceremony,” she said. “No one can beat that.”
Of course, if there’s any competition at the candle ceremony, it’s who can come up with the funniest story. Drama Niece, whose pseudonym comes from the amazing theatrical talent she showed during high school plays, won that competition by jumping in with backstory to anecdotes her cousins were telling.
By the time we were done with stories, some of the candles had burned down completely, and the plates I’d set around the room were filled with pools of melting wax. And now Drama Niece and Smiley Girl, born the exact same day, are no longer teenagers, but young women in their twenties.