It’s a crisp morning, with clear skies and 45F temperatures. Kody and I take Maya, our terrier/chihuahua mix, on a run. Kody rides her bike as I jog. Every direction is Kody’s choice. In part because she’s on the bike, but also because I don’t care. We zig-zag our way to the corner of Los Alameda Avenue and Mountain Parkway.
“Okay, big intersection. Do you want to go back or cross the street?” I ask.
“Which way has Maya not been before or doesn’t go very often?” Kody asks.
“I have an idea of where we can go that leads to a secret shortcut,” I tell her.
Her eyes grow big as I describe the path. It’s off Los Alameda, down Rice Lane, through a mobile home park.
As we pass a particularly bright mobile home, Kody slows her roll and looks at it agape. “What’s up?” I ask. “It’s my dream house,” she says, and from the look on her face, it is. The home is three shades of turquoise with steel steps to the front door. Each step adorns a pot of fake flowers, mostly pink and yellow tulips. Kody’s favorite color is turquoise, and I’m almost positive she’s never seen an all-turquoise house until now, so that explains the dream part. The flowers are a bonus.
“Okay, now you know where to find it,” I say, huffing out every word. When we set out, I thought of myself as a runner, but after the first mile, I wonder if I’m running to die. The pulse bulging the veins out of my neck suggests as much.
At the end of the mobile home park, there’s a makeshift bridge across a little wash to the southeast hills in Simi Valley. I catch my breath helping Kody across the bridge and two-foot drop. Pedestrian traffic has made a path in the dirt appear legal until it’s obvious how it caters to those who wander. One direction leads up the mountain, the other through a chain-link fence, past a black iron gate that runs beside two large pepper trees. The iron gate and fence are cut so long ago it looks like this section of barricade drooped down into the earth. The transition from one side to the other is effortless. Once we go between the two trees, we are standing on the final curve of Katie Street.
My face and lungs are still burning, but I continue to bounce up and down with Maya’s prance ahead and Kody’s roll beside me. Then, outta nowhere, Kody says, “Happy Birthday.” Allow me to rollout the whole dialogue, because this one takes the cake.
“Did you just say, ‘happy birthday?’”
“Yep, I said happy birthday.”
“Who are you saying happy birthday to?”
“I say it every day usually in the morning, but I forgot. Actually, some days I forget, but usually I remember and say it then, so it counts.”
“Remember when you told me there were like seven thousand, no, no probably eight billion people in the world?”
“Yep, billions, that’s right.”
“Yeah, yeah, so I was thinking not today, but like weeks or months ago, that’s a high number with a lot of zeros. It must be somebody’s birthday every day, like whether you’re six or ninety-nine or just born. It’s somebody’s birthday today, Mom. I say happy birthday to that somebody somewhere.”
“That’s great! Oh, Kody, I want to do that now! I’m going to start wishing happy birthday every day too! Thank you for telling me!”
The rest of our jaunt is filled with Maya panting, Kody humming, and me periodically looking up to the sky, to my mother, to the beauty of perspective, and silently giving thanks.
Happy Birthday, indeed.