Yesterday was Inara’s second birthday, an event I’d been dreading for weeks. Inara only just started part-time in a local pre-school, and we’re not connected with any particular social group that we could manufacture a party for her. For someone who has created an entire month-long even around his birthday (Mark Reynolds Awareness Month) this was heartbreaking. I know that at two years old, she won’t remember any party we throw for her, but surely she deserves some kind of celebration, right?
I should, at this point, explain something about Inara’s personality: I cannot explain Inara’s personality. She is inscrutable, possessed of a stone-faced stare that would unnerve a Marine and a smile of such warmth and brilliance that she will reveal it only to her closest family. I can almost never guess what world she is visiting at any of the frequent moments that she faces the middle-distance, gaze turned inward, murmuring indecipherable half-words of her own device, unaware of my increasingly elaborate attempts to draw her attention to her dinner, or the need for her to wear shoes, or to check in with Ground Control.
She is, in other words, much like I was at the same age.
So it was hard to believe she was serious when, a week ago, we started asking what she might like for her birthday.
“Do you want a cake for your birthday?”
“No. No birthday.”
“How about a picnic?”
“But what about birthday presents?”
“No birthday! No!”
Initially I excused her recalcitrance as the result of a bad mood. But the same questions the next day yielded the same answers. And the following day. My only conclusion was that she didn’t know what a birthday was.
Saturday morning, I came into her room and started singing Happy Birthday… instant temper tantrum. I stopped, she immediately calmed down ,fixed me with a glare, and shouted “No!”
Every subsequent mention of “Happy birthday,” every phone call from a grandparent or Aunt, led to the same reaction: “No! No birthday!” She refused to even look at her presents until Sana told her that one of them was a Cookie Monster.
I wanted to test if it was the general concept birthdays she objected to, or hers alone, so I told her that my birthday was coming in about two months. Could we sing happy birthday to me? It turns out yes – she happily launched right into the song. But when I said “Now let’s sing it for Inara!” she slammed her spoon on the table and yelled “No!” Her objections, whatever they might have been, were specific to her.
I still don’t know what her problem is, though maybe she recognizes her 730th day on the planet as the threshold past which she’ll need to give up her bottle, learn to use a toilet, and start putting into her retirement plan. I cannot be certain: the girl is and likely long will be a mystery to me.
I know one thing. “Inara Appreciation Day” will happen next year. There will be no singing.