Kina’s grandma—my mother—is celebrating the last of the first pandemic birthdays in our family today, ensuring that each of us has now eaten a cupcake on video chat as we celebrate the passage of a year. Kina performed “Show Yourself” from Frozen II in celebration, and we followed with an encore of “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”—Grandma seemed to enjoy that, even though she has seen many of Kina’s performances before. Grandparents have a high tolerance for repetition, I have learned.
My mom was also the last grandparent to visit us in New York before the pandemic, during Kina’s birthday week in December of 2019. There is a video on my phone of Kina playing “ice cream” with me in the local playground as her grandmother looks on adoringly. It feels like several years ago—Kina had a different voice, demeanor, and hat size. Everything our parents have seen of her since then has been through photos, video chat, and this newspaper. She’s a different person now—like all of us, but even more so.
“Will I keep growing forever?” Kina asked us this morning at breakfast. Not forever, we replied, but for a long time you will. It’s not entirely true, of course—we do keep growing, but in different ways. I always remember the look in my mother’s eyes when she first held Kina in our living room two weeks after she was born; I’d known my mother for my entire life, but I had never known Kina’s grandmother. There was something in her then that had not been there before, a reflection of the person in her arms, who had also not been there before.
Our youth and discoveries rekindle the youth and discovery inside our parents, and I’ve learned that from my own kid. As Kina grows and uncovers the mystery of sledding, it’s like I’m experiencing the feeling of sledding for the first time. As she encounters new joys, I recapture my own. I see this in my parents’ reactions to Kina’s discoveries and performances—not just a reminder of what it was like to be four, but an experience of being four. It feels good to be able to share Kina with her grandparents, to give them birthdays that include a child who bounces up and down while they blow out their candles. It really hits different, that candle, when there’s a kid around.
My mom got her first vaccine last weekend, which is the first in a series of moments of relief for us. On the phone tonight, I told my parents that we’re looking forward to when they can finally come back up to New York and see Kina. We’re patient, of course, and it gives Kina more time to rehearse her performances. Her grandmother will have seen them before, but that’s okay; grandparents have a high tolerance for repetition. Happy birthday, Grandma; I hope it feels good to be four.