We did okay.
Jill's birthday. Our first without her. I mean, it sucked. Her absence is so obvious, tangible...visceral. But we did okay.
We decided we'd do Jill things. I'd fix a feast of some of her favorite dishes, thematic coherence be damned. We'd watch a really, really bad movie.
Jill liked really bad movies. Fools Rush In, Last of the Dogmen, Tristan & Isolde, 13 going on 30 (God Help Me), 17 Again (Damn My Eyes!), Pride and Prejudice (FML). Hated those films and all their ilk. Loved watching them. Watching her watching them. She was...animated. She'd yell at the TV. She'd get mad at a character so intensely she'd decide she hated the actor. Like, on a personal level. And, of course, she'd cry. Those crappy movies were critical inputs into my favorite film...the Jill Chronicles.
So we watched 17 Again, again. It smacked me around pretty good, certainly more than expected. She'd made me watch that thing with her so many times that I could tell you exactly how she'd react to different scenes. I could hear her laughing throughout. I could hear her muttered "nooooooo" to my "are you crying" inquiry at the end. I could hear her comments. What I didn't have was the beautiful weight of her leaning up against me, the smell of her hair, her little hand squeezing mine so hard during the emotionally charged parts that it'd go numb. I'm forgetting what all those things feel like and that hurts.
Moved on to the feast. We had a Spinach Salad with Almonds & Dates, Butter Poached Asparagus with Garlic, and Tuna au Poivre with Brown Butter Citrus Sauce. Stuff she liked. Stuff she liked a lot. It was the first time I felt the familiar low-grade anxiety of cooking for her since she died. She was who I cooked for more than anyone. She's why I learned to cook...it made her so happy when I'd cook for her. I think that was less about my cooking and more about how long she'd been a single mom always having to do everything (and she loved doing anything for her girls) for the posse. She liked it when I'd do something for her. I'm not delusional. I know she wasn't here. Still, it was somehow cooking for her and I'd missed that. We all enjoyed the feast. Even Caya, who was very happy about the crispy fish skin made jut for her.
Mostly, we hung out. Together. Erin, Kim, me, dog. Jill didn't really like making a big thing out of birthdays. What she wanted for her birthday every year was all her people (including the furry four-legged ones) together in the same room. Hanging out. Laughing. Talking. Or not. But together. I think more than the feast or the remembrance motivated movie, that is what she would have most wanted us to do. That is the perfect present for Jill. Be together. She was what brought me together with these two magnificent young women I have the privilege of calling stepdaughters. She's the one that brought the little dog into our lives. She was the one usually pulling us all together. She's doing that still. I think that's her ongoing gift to all of us.
And yeah, there was some of that crying stuff. Some from sadness. Some from anger. But a little from the warmth of the memories causing something resembling joy.
Happy birthday, my one true.