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Five

Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five

Mark started the countdown to his birthday shortly after mine, in March. In hindsight, maybe buying him a super-heroes calendar was a mistake—I can’t remember a bedtime routine that didn’t include a quick check on the date and a promise that yes, one day it would be October 12.

The second week of this month is one of celebrations for us. Feng’s birthday is on October 11, Mark’s birthday is on October 12 and Thanksgiving is usually right before.

Before Mark, we barely acknowledged our respective birthdays. Feng had ODed on complicated and awkward Chinese gift-giving customs (“You don’t want anything? Here is something you don’t need, anyway, feel free to regift it to me next time!”) and we like to say we’re not materialistic.

But Mark likes ribbons, shiny wrapping paper, surprises, cake, candles, and everybody’s birthday must be celebrated with as much enthusiasm as if we were five again. Over the years, we upped our game. I’m rediscovering the pleasure of surprising someone and I received unexpected cool gifts too. At home, “birthdays” are now “Birthdays”, capital “B”.

Needless to say, I needed a plan for the guys.

“Mark, what would make you really really happy for your birthday?”

“A house.”

“A house?!”

“Yes, a big house.”

Since I know Mark doesn’t watch Property Virgins, I immediately blamed my in-laws for this sudden interest in real estate. They started brainwashing Mark to get through us. For instance, they want Feng to buy a new car because ours is old, so they give Mark car dealership brochures with the instruction to “pick daddy’s new car colour.” Which could be cute if we were in the market for wheels—but guess what, we aren’t.

So now, my in-laws apparently want us to move closer to their suburb, or in the area of a great school they heard about or whatever. Awe-some.

Not going to happen.

“Mark, why do you want a new house?”

“Er… this one is old.”

“Do you remember grandma and grandpa apartment in France? Yes? The building dates back to the 18th century. What? That’s like a long long time ago. Yes, before you. Now, this house was built 20 years ago. That’s not old. Besides, you don’t just buy a house for a birthday, sorry. Houses are super expensive.”

“Like, 100 dollars?”

“If you want to move to Detroit, maybe. More like a ‘one’ with six zeros. Is there anything else that would make you happy?”

“A boat that is a truck and a car.”

“A what?!”

“A boat, and it’s a car, and a truck, and a plane.”

“Did you see that in a store?”

“No, why?”

I sigh.

“Feng, what do you want for your birthday?”

“Nothing. I’m too old.”

“Guys, you’d better give me ideas or you will get a bunch of carrots…”

“MOMMY!”

“… and you will get books I’ll force you to read.”

“…JULIETTE!”

Gee.

It’s okay. Everything is under control. I have gifts hidden in the closet, I have plans in mind.

Love you, guys. Just don’t make a mess with the cake.

Mark’s calendar, counting down the days to October 12
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five
Mark posing for photos during the Thanksgiving long weekend, four days before turning five

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