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Cricket’s birthday is tomorrow. By an unfortunate coincidence, my mother is having our Christmas tree delivered tomorrow; I asked whether we might be able to just jam it in the stand and save the festive decorating experience for Sunday, and she very kindly agreed. It’s weird to schedule things around my being a basket case, but it seems like a good idea to give myself a little space and not, e.g., hide in the bedroom and cry while my family hangs ornaments and drinks cider.

I need to call him for his birthday, although I don’t expect (or hope) that Ruth will pick up the phone; I’m planning to hang out in the back yard and light a candle and brood after the kids have gone to bed. The gift we sent arrived a week early, so that’s one less thing to worry about. There is a sad and awkward bit toward the end of the card that goes something like “I don’t know whether you will like this, but Joey and I thought that it was cool, and I hope that you will, too.” I have no idea what he would like for his birthday. The gift we sent last year (an aquadoodle) was never given to him, so far as I can tell—I asked a couple of times, but gave up after March. That should make the pressure feel a little less, but of course it doesn’t. As I’m writing this, I am trying to figure out how to get across what I’m thinking, which is a grim little mantra of I don’t know what he’d like. I don’t know what he’s like. The last time we saw him, he was an unhappy and aggressive three-year-old who couldn’t bear to see any of the adults paying attention to Joey. He seemed to enjoy telling people what to do and also fruit (so: a three-year-old).

Mr. Book and I have spent a lot of time talking about Cricket over the last couple of weeks; it’s unproductive and mostly grim, but I just feel like I need to talk about him. We talk about what we would need to do to get ready for another visit, although none has been discussed; we talk about how different he seems to be from Joey and Kit, despite looking and sounding very much like these two. We feel guilty. We worry.

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