Emma always loves her birthday parties.
She doesn't remember her first ones, but she has seen pictures of them. There is always cake and presents in those pictures, and mommy and daddy, so Emma figures they've all had to have been happy birthdays.
How could they not be, with all those things?
This is her fifth birthday party. Five candles on the cake, and a lot more than five presents – so many presents Emma has to concentrate to count to a number that high. She is almost sure there is one other present too, because mommy and daddy have smiled a lot and talked about picking something up later.
She hopes it's a puppy. Emma wants a puppy almost more than anything else – the only thing she wants more is a dragon, but mommy and daddy tell her that dragons don't actually exist.
Which is dumb, Emma thinks. Dragons should exist. Dragons are cool. She's sure she would be able to handle a dragon. She's almost a big girl now, and she is a big sister twice, even if one of them is still inside mommy's tummy. That's a lot of big.
After most of her presents have been opened, mommy and daddy sit down with her, both looking very serious and very grown-up.
"Emma, do you remember when we told you about your grandfather?" daddy asks, and Emma nods. She remember s daddy being strangely sad, and mommy comforting him, and them telling her that daddy had a father that had died.
"You were sad," she tells daddy, who nods.
"I was sad," he agrees. "Emma, my father... My father has left you something. Sort of like a gift."
"A puppy?" Emma asks hopefully, and mommy bites her lip for a moment.
"No, not a puppy, Emma," mommy says seriously. "He's left you a lot of money for when you become an adult"
"Oh," Emma says. "Can I buy a dragon for that?"
Mommy and daddy exchange looks, and both look like they want to laugh. Emma isn't sure why.
"No, Emma," daddy says gently. "But you will be able to buy a lot of other things for them."
She thinks about that. Besides a puppy, she can't really think of anything else she wants to buy. Maybe many puppies.
"He never got me presents before," she says suddenly. She can't remember all her birthdays, but she can remember last year's, and there was no gift from her grandfather then.
Daddy looks pained."No, there wasn't."
"Did he leave a present for you, daddy?" she asks, and daddy shakes his head. "For mommy?"
"No, Emma," mommy says gently. "We will... We will tell you more about it when you grow older."
Emma considers that. "That doesn't sound very nice."
Mommy puts a hand on daddy's arm, Emma notices.
"He was not a very nice man, Emma," mommy says softly.
Emma looks at daddy, who looks sad, and she puts her hand on his arm too.
"I don't want his present," she says, sticking her chin out. If he was mean to mommy and daddy, she doesn't want a present from him.
Daddy smiles very softly, lifting her into his lap. "Emma, you may feel differently one day, but if you don't, that will be okay too. You can choose if you want to accept his present or not when you're old enough, okay?"
"Okay," Emma says. "Daddy?"
"I'm sorry your daddy didn't leave you a present," she says, and daddy looks down at her. "I can make you a present."
"Oh, Emma," mommy says, taking her hand. "You are a gift, honey."
"But I am not gift-wrapped," Emma protests, and daddy laughs.
"You know how presents make you happy?" mommy asks, and Emma nods. "You make daddy happy, Emma. You make mommy happy too. You are a gift to us. You are something we both dearly wanted, and every day with you is opening that gift again."
Emma ponders all this. It sounds very simple, but very complicated too, to be like a gift to a person every day. She also knows there's another word for that.
"That's love," Emma says, and daddy and mommy look at her, then at each other in that way Emma knows means they'll do kissing. Emma doesn't get kissing. Puppies seem like more fun.
"That's love, Emma," daddy agrees. "Finding love is the best thing that will ever happen to you."
"Like you and mommy?" Emma suggests, and then daddy kisses mommy and Emma groans. "Daddy!"
"Like me and mommy," daddy says, then lowers his head and kisses Emma on top of hers. "And like you and daddy and mommy. We love you, Emma."
That, Emma considers, is maybe a present as good as a puppy. Maybe.