It's here. Eli's big day. Today, Eli turns 7 years old. The feelings and emotions I have for this day are overwhelming. It's been a long, long 7 years, but I can remember this day in 2006 like it was yesterday...and the months to follow. They are etched in my memory with Sharpie...never fading. Some of the memories, honestly, I wish I could erase. The hurtful ones. Some I've written about on this blog, but most I keep hidden.
We hosted a birthday party for Eli on Saturday. He invited his entire regular class and his entire special needs class to his party. I began first thing in the day warning Eli that he might not have a lot of kids come. I wanted him to be prepared for the worst. Though Eli was confident his friends would come...I wasn't sure. When party time arrived, five precious kids came to celebrate Eli's birthday. I was relieved and Eli had a marvelous time with those five great kids. That same day, we had a family celebration where we all doted on Eli.
Despite his Saturday celebrations, Eli woke up this morning ready to celebrate his "real" birthday. I told him he was receiving a shopping spree from his mom and dad and that we'd leave for Wal Mart so he could pick out toys to his heart's desire. (I mean seriously, just because your birthday is two days before Christmas does not mean you shouldn't get the full gift benefit of the anniversary of your birth...I'm sure you all agree.)
Eli was wearing his shoes and the nurse and I toted his back pack full of medical supplies and his walker to Wal Mart. Eli enjoyed walking around the toy department looking at this and that and picking out two new train sets, two new trains, a set of tractors and (a mommy selected) learning toy. The basket was overflowing and Eli was tired and ready to ride. The nurse and I were rearranging and making room for Eli to sit with his haul when an older man approached me, handed me a one hundred dollar bill said Merry Christmas and walked away. My first reaction was "no, no, no," then I said "thank you." And, the man in the green coat was gone. I stood stunned for a few minutes...unsure of what my next move would be. I looked way down the aisle to see the man headed to the grocery department and so I told Eli that a nice man wanted to buy his birthday presents and he needed to say thank you. So, I CHASED the nice man in the green coat. He obviously was unsure about where he was going because he took many turns to end up at a canned food area. I found him and Eli told him thank you and that today was his birthday. The man said, well, it was meant to be. Merry Christmas. And he was gone again.
Earlier as we were walking through the store, I was noticing all of the smiles being sent Eli's way. Eli doesn't acknowledge the looks. I'm unsure if he doesn't notice or he just knows they are his normal. But, I do know that Eli radiates wherever he is. I thought, I'm glad I could bring Eli to Wal Mart today to brighten everyone's day. And then, someone brightened my day. Eli brings out the best in people and I'm honored to be his mom.
So, Eli, here's to another year ahead. Your year as a 7 year old boy. The year you will learn to walk without a walker. The year you will learn to read and master math (that's giving him trouble right now he's telling me). The year you will start to eat by mouth (I continue to tell him how great it is to eat pizza and biscuits and gravy). The year you will brighten the day of countless strangers, unknowingly. I love you my precious son.
Here's some pics of Eli's year: