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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy Birthday Marta!

People always warned me that birthdays around Christmas were the worst kind because people tied to skimp you on the presents. Marta's is nudged right between Christmas and New Year's, and I can imagine that people aren't too interested in one small, blond, three-year-old girl out of all the infotainment in the universe. Marta's day started in a very infotainment kind of way -- with the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Just the kind of news item I need on my mind as I head to the Botanical Gardens of New York to celebrate with my small child and other happy-go-lucky midgets, unaware of the f*d up world they are to inherit. No matter. Let me tell you the things on my mind:

1) What do you get your daughter for her birthday after you already got her a guitar, and clothes, and DVDs, and books, and basically everything you can get for a kid for Christmas? Answer: A xylophone. That was Marta's main gift. It's multicolored and made out of wood. I like wooden toys, not because I am a hippie, but because when I was a kid I played with blocks. One of these birthdays or Christmases Marta will be getting more wooden toys.

2) How do you organize a birthday party between Christmas and New Years? Answer: You marry Epp Saluveer and let her provide you with lists of local events gleaned from Internet searches. Then you cross out all the ones that start with "Kwanzaa!" and you are left with the Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo -- both which had winter and holiday-themed tours for little kids.

I am talking holiday trains, and Christmas lights, and gingerbread houses! That's what we did. Birthday phase I included Marta and some of her friends - Christopher and Johanna (JoJo), Paul, and Tobias. These small, grey-eyed individuals made quick work of the Botanical Garden. It's too hard to explain everything, but by the end, I was really tired, and the kids were really satisfied.

It was cold - this is December 30 we are talking about here - but we all held up. Later we went to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and ate REALLY good Italian food with my folks, my brother Ian, his girlfriend Suzanne, her niece Julia, nephew Quinn, and neighbor Michael, and sang happy birthday to my small, wonderful child, who we all love so much.

My life has really been great since Marta came into it. Marta's coming was a decisive action that said, "This is how it's gonna be." If she hadn't come, I might be crying in my beer right now trying to "figure out my life." I might be crying in a lot of beers. Thanks for making my life special. It's a pleasure being your daddy.

Anyway, afterwards we went to the Bronx Zoo, which was also chilly and laced up with holiday lights and filled with bored children off from school that came to see glistening butterflies and pulsing dinosaurs. I am surrounded by children so often. It's funny hearing the common names "Olivia!" "Liam!" followed by the family names "Dominick!" and then, of course, MY name, which is still born by many a six year old. Standing in a zoo hearing people yell, "Justin" just makes me edgy. Because inside I am responding to everyone that says my name. I'm being pulled apart in multiple directions. Ouch. Drawn and quartered.

This is what is good about Marta. No one has her name. There is no confusion. Blessed be all Martas.

As we sauntered home from the event later that evening, I was exhausted, but, moreover, I felt that I had done my daughter good. She had one rocking birthday party from morning 'til night. There was limited napping, and plenty of fun and surprises. And I am happy to note that Marta got exactly what she deserved on her birthday. A really good party.


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