To Eli On His Seventh Birthday

Yesterday you were born; today you are seven. For your birthday we got you tubes in your ears. Hope you like them! You’ve always been prone to winter ear infections, and this year you’ve been on antibiotics almost continuously since December. The surgery center where they installed your tubes has a hall with fourteen curtained alcoves. Patients are wheeled in and out of them with frightening speed. It was part NASCAR pit crew, part Henry Ford factory line. They wheeled you away and, before I could open the soda I bought in the recovery waiting room, they were calling us back to pick you up. “He’s going to be grumpy coming out of the general anesthesia,” they warned us, but as they brought you in, we could hear you happily asking the nurse about the wheelchair they had you in.

Eli looking a lot like Carl Sagan

It’s been a year of medical stuff, culminating in you getting stitches in your forehead. You ran out of Liza’s room, blood dripping down your face, and sobbed, “I hit my head!” It turned out you’d jumped off of her bed and over her Dora dollhouse only to bang your forehead on her dresser. After that emergency trip, you getting after-market ear tubes was a breeze.

It’s also been a year of snow. When we missed Huntsville’s white Christmas, instead having a rainy Arkansas Christmas, I thought you’d never get to see large amounts of snow. The universe set out to prove me wrong, dumping around a foot of snow on our yard in January and more in February. You didn’t have any snow boots, so we outfitted you with multiple pairs of socks covered by plastic Ziploc bags held on with rubber bands. Let no one say your mom and I have forgotten our redneck Arkansas roots. We made a snowman, but you were more interested in eating every bit of snow to see if it tasted different than every other bit of snow. You also had a good time throwing snowballs at me, though you were less excited when I threw snowballs back. We wandered up and down the snowy streets while I convinced you and Liza that the gray snow from car tires should not be eaten.

Eli with snowflakes on his tongue

You’re still in love with videogames. You’ve done so well with your Didj that this year we upgraded you to a Nintendo DS. Now you don’t have to solve math problems to keep playing a game! You’re a big fan of Plants vs Zombies and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. The big change is that this year you’re more interested in playing games yourself instead of watching me play. It’s not just videogames, though. You got a copy of the card game Uno as a birthday gift, and ever since you’ve been beating your mom and me at the game.

Last year we were lucky that your kindergarten teacher was great. This year we’ve been lucky that your first grade teacher is also great. Good teachers aren’t a given, so enjoy the ones you have. School has piled homework on your head. You spend about a half hour a day working on assignments to improve your writing, reading, and comprehension skills. They also have us tracking everything you’re reading, which makes reading into a chore with external rewards instead of something you do because you enjoy it. As you might guess, I’m not a fan of this approach. The schoolwork is only going to increase from here, and it makes me worried that you won’t have time to mess around and do things because you find them interesting, a key component in being a kid and becoming a functioning adult.

Eli reading a book

At seven years old, you’re a combination of loving and thoughtless in the way that young boys often are. You fight with Liza and then are sad because you’ve hurt her feelings. Our friends started a fund raiser to buy an iPad for their autistic son. When you heard about it, you said, “I want to give some of my money for it,” and counted out $3 in change to contribute to the fund.

Your relationship with Liza continues to deepen. She’s teaching you how to negotiate and get along with others, a skill which will come in handy later. You and she get up early in the morning and play together in her room, letting your mom and me sleep in like the awesome parents we are. For Halloween the two of you dressed up as skeletons, you in black and her in pink. You’re like binary stars who orbit around each other in complex ways.

Eli and Liza mugging for the camera

Your creativity continues to astound me. You still love making things out of Legos. You saw a TARDIS, went to your drawer of random Lego parts, and returned with a Lego TARDIS. You made a Lego version of Mario and a bad guy from Super Mario Galaxy and then told a long and complex story about how Mario beat the bad guy. You made a Lego version of Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb, your all-time favorite TV show. I expect to come home from work one day to discover that you’ve made a Lego version of your sister and shooed the real Liza out the door.

Eli's KNEX robot

A lot of your creativity is centered on videogames. You’ve made up countless new plants and zombies for the eponymous Plants vs Zombies. “I have a new plant. It’s like a jah-lah-pah-no only it burns all the zombies at once.” You made a paper peashooter and zombie and acted out various PvZ levels. Once, before I left on a business trip, you made me a paper Super Meat Boy. “He can go with you,” you said.

You’ve even harnessed your creativity for capitalist ends. One day you came home from school with a big plastic helicopter. “Where’d you get that?” your mom asked. “Oh, I got one of my friends to trade it to me.” You’d traded him for a two-page comic you’d made of robots fighting. You mis-interpreted your mom’s bemused expression and hastened to re-assure her: “It’s okay. I can make another comic.”

Eli looking like an anime character

The time with you passes all too quickly these days. Yesterday you were born; today you are seven. I have trouble believing that it’s been seven years already, as I at once see you as the newborn baby you were and the boy you are now. That temporal double-vision is only going to get worse as we shelve more birthdays between the bookends of my memory of your birth and the reality of now. But when I page through those books and spread them out before me, what I see in my memories reminds me of how good we’ve had it and makes me excited for the future of who you will become.

Eli running on the beach

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