Fourth

Time is a relative thing. Scientists tell us that we can travel so fast that time slows. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII convinced the whole western world to skip ten days.

Yet it’s the smaller moments that have the true significance.

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It’s the smaller moments that see a devoted mother spending an entire Friday afternoon baking a cake for a little girl and her guests.

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It’s the sweeter moments that see the welcoming of a beloved friend with mutual squeals of joy and anticipation.

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It’s the moment less than the flickering of a candle that we all remember, the moment that a little girl has been excited about for days.

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It’s the moments that finds us surrounded by friends,

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friends who have taken a few minutes out of their lives to come celebrate with us.

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Within these series of moments, I catch a glimpse of the future. It happens every now and then: a pose, an expression, a gesture, and suddenly I see what our sweet daughter will look like in five, ten, fifteen years. A birthday celebration offers a hint of birthdays to come, and the bitter-sweet realization that these present moments are disappearing all too quickly.

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The pony rides will disappear. “Oh, Tata — I’m not interested in ponies anymore.” It’s bearing down on us, this reality, and I both dread and eagerly look forward to it.

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In the meantime, we — family and friends — enjoy the moments of helping and hugging, the moments of screams of laughter often followed too shortly by cries of frustration. There’s a big girl inside our L, but she’s still a little girl. Almost one year older now, but a little girl all the same.

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“Technically, it’s not your birthday,” I try explain to her.

“You mean I don’t have my birthday party?” she replies, in a panic.

“No, you’re having your party today, but your birthday is Thursday.”

“But Mama said today is my birthday. Today is my party!” There’s a certain panic in her voice that tells me that time is such a relative, elastic thing — after all, in Asian cultures, children are born one year old — that I can shift time and calm a panicking daughter with few repercusions.

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“Well, Mama was right,” I relent.

“You were just joking,” L giggles.

Perhaps, but not about this: happy early-birthday, our sweet daughter. May all your birthdays be raspberry-covered and laughter-filled.