Whenever I sit down to write my birthday posts to you, I always go back and read the last few years’ posts to see what I said and what I think has changed. What strikes me when I read the words I wrote about you at six, seven, and eight is how little has changed – you are, as ever, persistent, determined, mischievous, quiet in public and the opposite of quiet at home, and the child who challenges me in ways I never imagined (most of them good).
But this, I think is what makes you so amazing: your personality arrived fully-formed practically from birth and you are now and always have been exactly who you will be. You are my Owen, and I know you ever shall be. Fierce and adventurous, unexpectedly loving and consistently active, capable of amazing things and a little bit uninterested in proving that to anyone but yourself. You set your own very high standards for the things that matter to you and you reach them always. The things that don’t matter as much to you? It’s still a challenge to get you to fully engage on those. I won’t quit though. Your potential is boundless and it’s my mission in life to get you to realize it.
This past year I saw you find your stride in so many things. You came out of your shell to perform in the school play, where your monologue as Colonel Sparkington was brilliantly done and so out of character for you, my little introvert. You nailed it though, and I had tears in my eyes watching you stand on stage in front of all your classmates and all their parents and your teachers and the headmaster and deliver your lines clearly and with feeling. I don’t think you hated it either, despite your general reluctance to speak in public most of the time. In fact, I think you kind of loved it. I know I did.
You’ve solidified some really good friendships this year, and that makes me so happy. In your younger years, you tended to rely on your older brother to pave your social path and you just befriended the people he was already friends with. Now, though, you have your own little group of friends, completely independent of your brother – a great group of funny, smart, good boys – and you are so happy. That makes me so happy.
You are also still a part of this insane gang of three that makes my house loud and smelly and full of sports equipment. I love this gang a lot.
You have, as you always, always do, continued to excel in sports. It’s just fun to watch you play, no matter what sport it is. But my favorite now is watching you run. You are just good at it, and while you’re running you look like you’re in your comfort zone. A comfort zone that includes a sub-7 minute mile. I will be forever grateful that we moved to England if only because of the cross country program at your school that revealed to us what a good runner you are and how very much you enjoy it.
Your love of travel hasn’t dimmed, even though I worried that at some point you (and your siblings) might grow weary of it and blase about yet another castle tour or museum. You have embraced the travel with joy and excitement, though, and there is very little I love more than hearing you compare your trips to Italy and Ireland and Germany and France, debating what was better where and how those places are similar or different.
One of my favorite things about traveling with you is your appetite for trying new foods. You have absolutely graduated from the children’s menu; we don’t even pretend anymore that you would be satisfied with chicken tenders or a hamburger. You particularly liked the curry wurst in Germany. And the cheese fondue in Chamonix. And the fish croquettes in Ireland. And the giant pots of mussels in Normandy. Seafood seems to be your most favorite, in fact. Watching you inhale plates of octopus, grilled and fried squid, clams, swordfish, tuna, and whole prawns with the heads and legs still on is almost comical. More than one waiter or waitress has double checked to be sure they heard your order correctly. I love your appetite for adventure of every type.
At nine years old, you’ve had more adventures than most people have in a lifetime. You have skied in the French Alps and ridden a gondola to the top of the highest mountain in Europe and stood in a glass box 1000 meters above the ground. You’ve toured the Guinness Factory and visited the home in Galway where your great grandfather, and his father – your namesake – lived. You have climbed the Eiffel Tower and toured the Vatican. You have gone swimming in Capri and snorkeling in Menorca where you found an octopus as it slid around on the rocks below you and without fear, you followed him and watched him. You’ve toured more castles than I can name, and thankfully you’ve been excited about at least something you’ve seen at every single one.
I am grateful too that you and your brothers and sister have had all these adventures together and will share the memories forever. You are close and love each other and get along well – at least most of the time. It is the single greatest joy of my life to see you all happy and laughing and exploring and learning about new places. You share something unique with each of your siblings, and that is something I hope holds true forever. You and your sister seem to have a mutual love of the daring and scary and a willingness to try absolutely anything; you and your older brother have an obsession and adoration of sports of every single kind and will spend countless hours together playing football, baseball, cricket, or any other sport you can think of; and you and your younger brother – with whom you share a room and, most nights, a bed – have a relationship built on nighttime chats and early morning Legos and games of cards. When you’re all grown up with families of your own I hope you still hang out and do the things you love together. I will consider myself a successful mother if my children all wind up not just family members but lifelong friends.
On your birthday this year I want you to know that your father and I are more proud of you than we could ever describe, that we love every single thing about you, and that we are so glad to be your parents. Thank you for being you – always. Happy 9th birthday my blondie baby! I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.