So, by the time this story comes out, it'll be just a few days after my birthday!! Woohoo!! And, at the time of writing it (in July...), I'm currently trying to pretend I'm not overwhelmingly sad that the two guys in the gif above aren't attending this year's Summer In The City (to be fair, they're touring Australia and I'm hugely proud of them and very glad for their Aussie fans, but STILL... Gutted for me, because I want to meet them more than anything). So, those two thoughts merged to create this story. Hope you enjoy!
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"The ONLY Thing I Want For My Birthday..."
Jacob wasn't happy. His birthday was only a few days away, but he wasn't in the mood to celebrate. A party had been arranged, his mum was planning on baking a cake and he'd been promised lots of awesome-sounding gifts. But Jacob wasn't bothered about any of it.
The only thing Jacob wanted for his birthday, was the very thing he couldn't have.
"I'm wrapping your presents up tonight, when you've gone to bed," his mum told Jacob, as they ate dinner. "Are you getting excited, yet?"
Jacob pushed his food around his plate and sighed. He didn't want to be ungrateful. He didn't like making his mum feel sad. But he just couldn't raise a smile. "The only thing I want for my birthday is for Dad to come home to spend it with me," he said, in a small voice.
Jacob's dad was in the Army. He'd been away for a few weeks now and Jacob missed him terribly. He knew it was his dad's job and that Dad couldn't help missing his birthday, but knowing that didn't make it any easier. "It's not going to be the same without him," Jacob sighed.
"You sound just like your dad when you mutter like that," Jacob's mum chuckled. "And that face you just pulled was the image of him, as well."
"Me looking like him isn't the same as him being here," Jacob insisted.
"I know that. But your birthday will be great just the same," Jacob's mum promised. "We'll have a lovely day and we can tell Dad all about it. He's promised to video-call, remember?"
Jacob managed a weak smile. That night, he went to bed and tried his hardest to get excited about his birthday. But without his dad being home, he just wasn't sure how. It was Dad who made his special birthday pancakes for breakfast ever year. It was Dad who organised all the party games when Jacob's friends and family came over to celebrate. It just wouldn't be the same without him there.
The morning of Jacob's birthday arrived at last and the sun came bursting through Jacob's bedroom window. He could hear his mum bustling about in the kitchen and he tiptoed downstairs, still rubbing his eyes.
"Birthday pancakes!" Mum called, smiling brightly. "I hope they taste as good as they do when your dad makes them. Happy birthday!"
Jacob smiled and glanced at the pile of presents by his place on the kitchen table. He felt the tiniest pang of excitement and his smile widened just a little.
"What are you going to open first?" His mum asked, bringing the pancakes to the table.
Jacob shrugged. "I don't know..."
Jacob made his way to the table and began opening his presents. They were brilliant - a skateboard, a book about dinosaurs, a DIY space rocket kit and a couple of really cool t-shirts. Jacob smiled, but his chest swelled - if only his dad was here to help him build the space rocket, or teach him some cool tricks on the skateboard... "Thanks, Mum," he said. "These are awesome."
His mum squeezed his shoulder. "I know today isn't quite the same, but it'll be okay, I promise."
After Jacob had eaten breakfast and gotten dressed, he took his skateboard outside. He remembered some of the tricks his dad had shown him in videos they'd watched together and he tried his best to copy some of the easier ones. Mum came out to watch and she took photos to send to Dad. When he was worn out, Jacob went back inside and started work on the space rocket model, whilst Mum decorated his birthday cake. Jacob remembered all the things his dad told him when they made models together: "Always look at the instructions first, lay everything out in front of you so you can see it all before you start and don't glue anything into place until you're sure it's where it's supposed to go..."
Once Jacob had finished putting the model together, it was time for his friends to arrive for the party. They brought him extra gifts and they all played lots of cool party games that Jacob's mum had organised. Mum had made a huge chocolate cake and everyone enjoyed a delicious birthday tea, with crisps, sausage rolls, mini pizzas and cake for pudding. It was fun. Jacob couldn't help but enjoy himself and for a while, he laughed and smiled with his friends and family like there was nothing different about the day at all.
That evening, when everyone had gone home, Jacob cuddled up to his mum on the sofa and smiled. "Thank you for a lovely day. You were right; it was great." He sighed. "I do really miss Dad, though."
His mum cuddled him close. "I know," she told him. "But he's going to video-call us in a minute, so let's be ready!" She switched on the laptop and waited for the call to come through. Soon enough, a bleepy noise signalled that Dad was calling and before long, his face appeared on the screen. Jacob beamed and waved.
"Happy birthday!" His dad called, waving back. "Have you had a good day?"
Jacob told his dad everything - what presents he'd had, what they'd had to eat at the party, what games they'd played... As he spoke, he realised how lucky he'd been and he flashed his mum an extra big smile. But the one thing he wanted more than anything was to hug his dad. Jacob sighed. "I really wish you were here."
His dad grinned. "It sounds like I am."
Jacob's eyes widened. "What do you mean?!"
His dad raised his eyebrows. "You remembered the skateboarding videos I've shown you, online, right?"
Jacob nodded, staring wordlessly at the screen.
"And you remembered what I always say about building models?" Dad went on.
Again, Jacob nodded.
"And you've been thinking about me, even whilst you've been having fun with your friends and enjoying your party?"
Jacob nodded once more.
"Then you've got me right there with you," his dad said. "Right where it matters. In your heart and in your thoughts." He smiled through the screen at Jacob. "Look around the room you're sitting in. Can you see pictures of me? Photos of us together?"
"Everywhere," Jacob replied, glancing at the family photos on the mantlepiece and up on the walls.
"I'm with you, Jacob," Dad said. "In everything you do and all the things you say. When you love someone, they're never far from you, no matter how many miles might be between you. They're in your heart all the time. I'm in yours and you're in mine."
Jacob's chest swelled. He thought back to his mum telling him how much like his dad he was and he suddenly felt incredibly proud.
"Anyway," Dad went on. "You've not opened your special present from me, yet."
As Jacob glanced away from the screen, his mum passed him a little package. Jacob unwrapped it to reveal a game for his console and he grinned. "I've wanted this one for ages!"
"I know," Dad replied. "You've got a few more weeks to practise on it, before I come home and play it with you - you can see if you can beat me!"
Jacob laughed. "I will," he said. "Thanks, Dad."
"You're welcome," Dad smiled. "I knew you'd been after that game for a while."
Jacob shook his head. "I don't mean the game," he insisted. "I mean... For letting me know you're around. Even if you're... not." Jacob pressed a hand against his chest. "You're here."
Dad nodded and echoed Jacob's actions. "You're here, too."
Later that night, as his mum tucked him into bed, Jacob flung his arms around her neck and kissed her cheek. "Thanks, Mum. Today has been the best birthday ever."
His mum kissed him back and smiled. "I'm glad. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Mum," Jacob replied. And, as the moon rose in the sky outside and the stars twinkled, he smiled to himself and placed his hand on his heart. "Goodnight, Dad."