Birthday Kisses

Crystal Jarvis

Crystal Jarvis

I planted a thousand kisses on my three-year-old’s meaty cheeks when she woke up from her nap, but that didn’t seem like enough. I gazed at her in disbelief while she sat slurping yogurt in front of the jabbering television. I sat looking at her for what felt like days — but it was only a few minutes–the bombing at the Boston Marathon happened an hour before.

It was my thirtieth birthday: April 15, 2013. That morning I vowed to politely inform every one who called to wish me a happy birthday and to joke about me heading over the hill, that I was turning 25. Not thirty. I imagined myself all glamorous while blowing out candles at dinner later that night at a restaurant in downtown Boston. I had been rushing all morning, frantically cutting and primping my hair into a style I hadn’t worn since high school. Meanwhile, my daughter was running around my apartment, springing herself up and down on a ball screaming “I’m a jellyfish! I’m a jellyfish!” which sounded more like “I’m a je-wee fish!”

By noon, my nerves were frayed: My hairstyle turned into a mess and so did my living room after the destruction of the jellyfish. Still, I rushed to finish. I planned to take my restless baby out on a stroll into the city to participate in the marathon activities, to see the runners cross the finish line. It would have been my first and last marathon, my last birthday celebrated in the city since I would possibly move soon. Plus all daycares and schools were closed in honor of Marathon Monday. So I thought why not?

But my hairdo took too long. The sleepy headed jelly fish started rubbing her eyes. I put her in her crib and then laid across my own bed for what I thought would be a few minutes. I fell asleep too. My phone vibrated. Daddy’s named flashed across the screen. The comedian of the family. Before I answered, I smiled and prepared for quick rebuttals to his jokes about where I should buy my walking cane.

“Hey, happy Birthday,” he said quickly. “What’s going on up there? Did you hear about the bombing up there?

I shot up in my bed. “What? What bombing?”

“It’s all over the news.”

I didn’t have cable. With the phone pressed to my ear, I pulled up my search engine on my laptop. Nothing. The Internet wasn’t working and the screen appeared frozen. The signals were down; the first sign that something was wrong. Another call buzzed my line: EMERSON COLLEGE popped up. My school. For the past year or so, Emerson had been sending test emails and making test phone calls in case of an emergency. Nothing had ever happened since I moved to Boston from Alabama three years before to attend the college, but the phone call in that moment told me the bombing was real. I answered. The voice recording confirmed.

I told Daddy I would call him back. I needed a moment to think. More calls flooded in. My daughter’s aunt, who called earlier that day to wish me a happy birthday, called back. She remembered my plans to go to the marathon.

“I called a couple of times and when I couldn’t get through I nearly peed my pants,” she said.

When I told her we were okay, she let out a hefty sigh: “thank goodness.” But not everyone in the city could say those simple words. Thank Goodness. I imagined the frenzy of people packed along Boylston Street, running to safety.  I was mortified by the grotesque pictures of posted online of blown off limbs and scattered blood: More than 200 people injured from the blasts. Three people died, including a woman who shared my name–spelled Krystle–and until that very day at 10:14 p.m.–my exact time of my birth–shared my age.

I had been writing about my past regrets lately and praying for a miscarriage sits high on the list. It’s an honest fear that I live with everyday. I imagined my baby strapped tight in that stroller near the finish line clapping and cheering like we were supposed to be but thank goodness we were sleeping in our beds in the suburbs just outside the city. But Krystle was in the thick of marathon aficionados, cheering and waiting for her friends to cross the twenty-six-mile threshold. Unlike me, she was not yet a mother, but she was someone’s beautiful daughter. A beautiful daughter who was still young and vibrant, a beautiful daughter who would never get the chance to brag about turning twenty-five again.

I kept answering phone calls to tell everyone we were okay, I snuck a few glances at my sleeping baby girl. She would wake up soon to bounce around my house like a jellyfish.

Crystal Jarvis is a native of Birmingham, Alabama who recently earned her Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Emerson College.


  1. Crystal, this is beautiful. I’m so glad to have a chance to read some of your work.

  2. wow.. powerful.

  3. Wow Cyrs I remember that like yesterday. I thanked God you couldn’t get that hair of yours to act right that day!!! HUGS n KISSES

  4. Very nice article my friend….cheers to a bad hair day lol

  5. Chris, please forgive me because I just read this. We have so much to be thankful for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.