Of birthdays, Bears, and 9/11

We’re having my daughter’s birthday party today. It was a tough call, with schedules of friends, family, and work conflicting with any other weekend dates that bookend her birthday on the 13th (which, in this moment of anniversary’s, is the 5th year anniversary of our marriage: Wood, Jerry, wood.) Ultimately, we sided with the theory that this historic day of rememberence can also be a day of celebration. And it’s opening day for the Chicago Bears.

To give an idea of my priorities, we’ve been prepping for the party all week, I’m wearing my Bears jersey, and this morning on the way to the hardware store to get a flag holder, I tried to explain to my five-year old the difference between July 4th and 9/11.

“So the British are on our side?” He asked, with a chocolate long john hanging from his chin. (The hardware store wasn’t open yet; the bakery was.) Two months ago I explained Independence Day and, since then, when he lines up his Lego men, or when his cars surround his superheroes, he has been heard to say, “Die British, die.”

I tried to explain what happened on 9/11: buildings, airplanes, civilians not soldiers. Terrorists. “Did you fight?” he asked. “How old were you? Where were you?” These I could answer. But he stumped me at, “Why?”

It reminded me of Jason’s column from last week, though in a much less personal, more objective way. Explaining it was like starting a small project in an old house: the more you dig in, the more there is to do. “To scare us,” I settled on. “They don’t like our way of life…(now I’m peeling back the wallpaper to find rotted drywall ooh and a cracked foundation…)”

“They’re like bullies, but bigger.”

He was OK with that. And he wanted to finish his donut.

Looking this over now, I want to go back and sit him down and explain everything. Not as easy as July 4th because we’re still in the midst of the present history. Ten years on, two wars in, I don’t feel like we’re on the clear side of hindsight. This is the world you’ve inherited, kids, and while 9/11 was not the beginning it is the watershed. Unfortunately, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to explain this in years to come.

For today, eat cake, open gifts, enjoy your party. Go Bears.

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