On his third birthday, he woke up expecting balloons and streamers.

I hadn’t realized he had expectations of birthday grandeur. I had planned a small family dinner, cake, and a few presents.

But this child lives for big things.

I had failed to show him our joy and love. And I hoped to never fail the same way again.

And so there we were, six years later, in the middle of a school day. It was his ninth birthday, and I knew he needed to know, and we all needed to remember:

He is loved. He is cherished. His birthday is important.

I printed out strips of paper. They said things like, “My favorite thing about Jude is…”, “My favorite memory of Jude is….”, and “I love Jude because….”.

Then we took turns secretly writing our answers, and stuffed our love notes in a jar.

At dinner the jar sat in the middle of the table, a centerpiece of joy.

It’s strange how such a small thing can give the whole night more meaning, and open our hearts to what is most important.

We forgot presents and apple pie, the troubles of the day faded, and we smiled and laughed as the birthday boy opened note after note, delighting in our scribbles and relishing the memories.

I looked at the tiny yellow lid on that jar and knew that the six of us make up our own jar.

We hold in this family scribbles of love and devotion that need to be opened, read, and our hearts need to revel in the beauty of it all.

These people are my love jar. The lid is off.

I am so very happy tonight.

As we drove home, Boy 1 looked at me and said, “Are we gonna make the love jar a birthday tradition? I think we should…”

I think we should too. I can’t wait for the next party.

Aren’t birthdays wonderful?