happy birthday, roy!

happy birthday, roy!

Birthdays have a way of boiling my children’s personalities down to their purest essence.

Roy turns nine today. As part of the festivities, we made an early morning trip to the Krispy Kreme for doughnuts so that he could take them and share with his class. He needed 50, he told me, one for every single soul in the three classrooms he moves between during the day.

“You’re not taking 50 doughnuts to school,” I said. “How many kids are there in your homeroom class?” I asked, for what was probably the third time.

“Hmmm,” which is the noise he makes when he pretends to consider any question I’ve asked him, “twenty-six.”

“No,” I said, because that sounded wrong. “You don’t have twenty-six kids in your class. Only the fifth-grade classes have that many. One more time, Roy – how many children are in your class?”

“Oh,” he said, pretending to understand my question for the first time. “There are twenty-four kids in my class. There are two teachers. I was adding the two teachers.”

“Listen, I’m not trying to cut back on the number of doughnuts you get to take to your homeroom class.” I spoke to him using my low voice in the hopes of achieving optimal mutual understanding. “I was going to add in your teachers. I am just trying to get a good number for the kids and go from there.”

“Uh-huh,” he said, never looking up from that stupid SGT Frog comic book in his lap.

Upon arrival at the Krispy Kreme, Roy immediately found the white board on which the management writes a trivia question. A correct answer wins the customer a free doughnut. It was a math problem, written in Roman numerals: what is M minus IX? (The Krispy Kreme indicated that they would be willing to accept the answer in Arabic rather than in Roman numerals. I thought this to be particularly lenient of them.)

Roy worked it out for himself, but he did so with the wrong numbers, which was entirely my fault. I had skimmed the problem and gave him a four instead of a nine for the second part of the equation. The nice lady gave him a free doughnut anyway.

When we pulled back into the driveway, Roy jumped out of the car wearing his paper Krispy Kreme hat and gleefully began shooting baskets with his brother. Scott overheard Roy telling Marcel between shots that he had answered an Arabic math problem correctly at the Krispy Kreme, but that he had been forced to provide his solution in Roman “numinals,” something he indicated he had been able to do both easily and successfully. The chocolate-iced cake doughnut he was managing to eat in between basketball plays were the victor’s spoils.

A mother who knew Roy before he was walking said that she’d never seen a child before who looked at everyone as if they were waiting to hear the punch line of a joke—one he already knew to be the funniest, most revelatory bit he’d ever had the pleasure of listening in on.

It’s still true, too. Roy is waiting for great things to happen. And if that greatness doesn’t appear to be in the offing, he is more than willing to create it and deliver it to himself and those who he loves best.

Happy Birthday, Roy. I love how you make everything your own—even when, sometimes, it’s not.