Saturday, April 02, 2011


by J J Cohen

I don't compose many personal posts any more. ITM is a busy place, with its announcements of extraordinary new publication ventures (long may punctum reign!), its conference wrap ups, its ruminations on climate and weather. Some of my pieces blend a bit of everyday life with scholarly pursuits, but familial and domestic spaces have lately been reserved for Twitter and Facebook.

I can't help posting, though, this short hymn of praise for my daughter Katherine, who turned seven yesterday. In a few short hours 26 of her friends will be invading our small home for a reptiles party. You read that correctly: a local animal rescue group that focuses upon our neglected slithering friends will be bringing an assortment of snakes, turtles, lizards and skinks for the kids to admire -- and, provided they wash their hands afterwards to avoid ingesting salmonella with their snake-shaped cake, to touch. I love that Katherine -- or KEC [her initials rendered a one syllable syllable word], as she prefers to be called right now -- chose this theme for to celebrate this birthday.

Katherine is joyful in her self-assurance. Unlike her older brother, a ball of anxiety like his dad, KEC has little experience of worry. I'm convinced she had her first nightmare out of a sense of expectation. She's suffered very few thereafter. Though she had princess and pink phases, KEC passed through them quickly, and now finds herself a little weary of the limited roles that seem to be available to first grade girls. She will never care if the UGG boots that her classmates wear are an acceptable color, or imitations purchased from Old Navy. Walking around the playground and talking at recess holds no appeal when there is a soccer game to join: so what if she is the only girl on the team? Sometimes she has a sense of not fitting in, of not getting why some value what they do, and she feels saddened by that gap ... but she is difficult to keep subdued long. A few months ago she created a store called The KEC that she runs from her bedroom. I depend on her for the twenty-five cent penguin themed notebooks that are a staple in my office.

Happy birthday KEC. Your mother has already baked two bundt cakes that have been split into the four segments we'll use to create a sinuous snake. We'll frost it in the chocolate you love and dot it with the M&Ms you crave. You'll be showered in art supplies, Legos, and soccer items, I'm certain. The fact that not a single child said no when invited to your party says something about your charisma, even if there are days when you come home from school feeling down. Seven is your year, I know it.


Eileen Joy said...

Happy Birthday, KEC! I think, rather, that 8 will be your year: the one that begins today!

Caren said...

Happy Birthday, KEC!

Anonymous said...

Lucky kid, lucky dad. I wish I were turning 7 and had reptiles at my party. Happy Birthday!

andrea said...

She sounds exactly like my daughter. My girl turned ten this year and we had a Roman/Egyptian party complete with dressing up. The year before it was a safari party. Clever, creative kids are not an endangered species; they're just spread over a very wide and apparently empty range.

Anne said...

Hope KEC had the happiest of birthdays. Between her store and Iris's museum (also bedroom-operated!), I have high hopes for cool girls everywhere making their own worlds. Have a great week-end, beautiful family!

Daniel said...

Happy Birthday (nachträglich) KEC! All of us who have birthdays on April 2 wish you happy birthday!

Here are a few other 'notables' who share an April 2nd birthday:
Charlemagne (old calendar?), Abraham Ortelius (Flemish cartographer and geographer), Cornelis de Houtman (Dutch explorer), Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Giacomo Casanova, August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Hans Christian Andersen, Émile Zola, Nicholas Murray Butler (president of Columbia University, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize), Max Ernst, Buddy Ebsen, Sir Alec Guinness, George MacDonald Fraser, Kenneth Tynan, Serge Gainsbourg, Booker Little, Marvin Gaye, Leon Russell, Emmylou Harris.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Thanks cor the birthday wishes everyone! I have passed them along to KEC.

I am happy to announce that not a single turtle, snake, frog, or lizard escaped during the reptiles party, which was a smashing success.