I remember being just four or five, and having made you a pendant out of clay — I painted it deep red, almost brown, the color of old blood. I pressed my fingers in to leave an imprint. Too cumbersome for a necklace, to be sure, I tied it up with excessive amounts of yarn and presented it to you, knowing with exact confidence that you would prize it.

Soon after, we were down the street in our neighbor’s driveway. You were teaching me how to jump rope. At the time, I was only aware of your desire to show me how. Now I see your pride in showing yourself what you could still do. 

The necklace flopped up and down, a crimson little paw print, and, before you could grab it, it hit the concrete and split. I was not upset that it was broken. I was upset because I knew you had wanted to keep me from feeling sad and could not. 

Together, with your hand on my back, we gathered what was left and glued it back to one again, pangaea — but you were then too scared to wear it.

Mama, we cannot protect the people we love. Not at all, not even at all. We can only love them — and, in doing so, prepare them — which is decidedly not the same thing. No one tried harder. Your trying harmed you. I am sorry. 

Today is your birthday. New blood, old blood. You remain. Excessive amounts of yarn and thread and non-linear lines lead us back to this same knotted up pendant of a life, sometimes barely hanging. I am as prepared as I can be.

Happy birthday.