I haven’t been posting much lately. The time leading up to Alice’s birthday was very emotional. I was irritable. I was sad. I was overwhelmed. I was remembering happy times. I was remembering sad times. I felt like I was experiencing every feeling, and it was exhausting. I had anticipated Alice’s birthday would be difficult, but I didn’t expect the days, and apparently even the month leading up to it to be that way. I had upsetting dreams a few nights the week before. I have them relatively frequently, but it was more often.
They day before Alice’s birthday I was meeting a friend at a party store, and a woman walked in and said she needed some decorations for her daughter’s first birthday, which was the next day (same day as Alice’s). I wanted to run over and scoop up her daughter and just get to know what she was like, but I realized that would be creepy just in time.
We stayed up late the night before her birthday playing Mario Kart with my sister and her husband. We were just leaving around 1:30 am (what else is new, we always stay up late) when Natalie said, “Happy Birthday Alice”. The words stung. I felt guilty I hadn’t been the first to realize. I was glad Natalie remembered. I thought about how a year ago I was just starting to have contractions. I knew right away Alice wouldn’t take too long to come.
We stayed at my parents’ that night and before we went to sleep we talked about how much we miss our little girl. We speculated what she would be like, and imagined how she would have changed. Would she have enough hair for awkward, uneven pigtails? Would she be learning to walk? Would she babble “ma-ma-ma”? Which teeth would she have? What foods would she like? Would she still sleep well? I wished I had the answers.
In the morning we had to prepare both for Alice’s birthday party and a family vacation. We packed our things for our getaway and spent the next few hours compiling every video clip we have of Alice into a slideshow.
The party was getting closer and I didn’t have flowers to leave at Alice’s grave yet. We were running out of time and we went to a local flower shop I just adore. I planned to just go in and buy some flowers and leave, but my feelings overcame me as soon as I entered. I struggled to explain to the kind employee that I needed flowers. I mumbled and stuttered and poorly explained that I wanted some pink flowers that I could leave at a grave. She was extremely understanding and said I could come pick them up in about an hour since they were all working on wedding florals at the time. Dallas found a beautiful little premade bouquet over in their cooler and we bought that, along with a few extra flowers for the cake.
I had Dallas run to the store last minute to get the balloons I had filled with helium, and we were ready to go.
We arrived at the cemetery with a few family members. My sister Michelle arrived with a large bouquet of pink and gold. My siblings and my parents had all contributed to buy it for us and with it was this message, “We love you guys so much and we really love Alice. Families are forever.” It was such a beautiful and loving gift. We set up a little sign that come out of the ground, on which I wrote, “Alice Michelle” since her headstone hasn’t been installed yet. My mom gave Alice a “Happy Birthday” balloon too.
We all wrote notes to Alice on little slips of paper and tied them to the ends of balloons. We sang Happy Birthay to our angel and released the balloons at the end. Dallas and I cried as we sang. People started heading over to my sister’s house where we would eat cake and watch the slideshow of Alice videos. Dallas and I stayed behind to sing Alice our own birthday song. For a little context, Dallas and I met while we were servers at a restaurant called Brick Oven. When a guest has a birthday, we would sing them this song,
Happy happy birthday,
Today’s your special day!
Happy happy birthday, that’s why we’re here to say,
Happy happy Birthday, may all your dreams come true!
Happy happy birthday, from Brick Oven to you!
Since this birthday song has a special meaning to us, we sing it to all our family members on their birthdays, but we replace “brick oven” with “Bertolas” (our last name). This time as we sang to our little girl, we were sad we wouldn’t get to have her clap along. When we got to the part where we usually say “Bertolas” we both said “Mom and Dad” without any planning. It was just so perfect that we held each other and cried.
We went back to my sister’s house and ate the cheesecake I had decorated and watched the slideshow of little miss Alice. It was fun to remember so many good times and use that time to remember the happiness she brought and brings to our family.
It felt a little silly doing all of this for Alice, but it was so healing. I loved giving her a birthday party and celebrating the anniversary of her birth.
We are still greatly looking forward to celebrating Alice’s birthday with all of you, but it was nice to have an intimate family get together on her actual birthday. I hope to see many of you at her party on September 9th! For more info, click here.