Dear Caleb

Today you turn seven. You’re the first person in our family to have a birthday in our new Abu Dhabi life and it seems appropriate that it should be you, because after your father, you were the one most excited about coming here.  I’m sorry there haven’t been any camels yet, but we’re working on it.

This year will be quite remarkable, I know, and not just because we’re living in this fascinating place but also because your curiosity and imagination are going to make it more interesting.

You remind us that we’re a family and not just a bunch of people living under one roof: you’re the one who asks for family dinner and family game night.  And because I love that you want us to play together, I swallow my dislike of Risk (your new favorite game) and pretend to care about world domination.  Much to your older brother’s displeasure, you sometimes end up ruling the world (and although I don’t show it, I’m delighted when you beat him).

Your endlessly unspooling Lego stories, about conquest, espionage, battles and skirmishes, which you tell to yourself for hours and hours reminds Liam that there is more to life than computers and soccer.  I see Liam watching you sometimes, as you’re crouched, engrossed, over a floor full of complex battle scenes and he looks almost envious: he wants back into that world of seamless, unselfconscious story-telling, but he can’t quite get there.

I love that even though your energy could fuel a small city, you’re also very happy to curl up with a book or to sit with your markers and write a story (usually about battles, conquest, espionage, and world domination—yes, there’s a theme).

When we go to the park, or playground, or beach—wherever there are other kids—I know that you’ll end up playing happily with kids you don’t know.  You are good at making friends: every morning last year, when we walked into the courtyard of your school, a gang of kids would run to you, shrieking “Caleb’s here, Caleb’s here!” I know you’re nervous about starting a new school next month, but I know you’re going to be fine.

I love that your first action on coming home is to take off your pants: you wander the house in your underwear and socks like an old man from Queens. All you need is the remote control and a beer to complete the picture.  I love that you’d rather eat vanilla ice cream than chocolate and that you want to be a mad scientist, not a regular scientist.  And I love that you’ve never met a costume you didn’t immediately want to wear:

cousin mathilda’s cat tail and cat ears

This last week in Abu Dhabi, you’ve been learning to dive. You climb out of the pool, get your arms stretched up, your head tucked down, knees bent, push off…and slam! belly flop into the pool.  You come up out of the water smiling: “better this time, right?” Again and again and again. Stretch, tuck, push, SLAM.  Any day, though, it’s going to click. I can tell you’re getting close.

From the moment you learned to walk—at a ridiculously early nine months—you’ve embraced the world, not always sure you can handle it but always willing to try.

Happy Birthday my sweet Caleb.