We gather and sit around the table, a ring linked by blood and history. Side by side by side, tied to one another by memory and plotlines and subplots twisting and intertwining and fading in and out of focus, decades deep, some growing darker with each passing month even as others flare bright to blinding with the vivid, unquenchable joys of being four and struck savage with wonder at the raw, unfiltered possibility of every new day: born anew with the fresh breath of sunlight pouring over a cold earth.

February in New England. A time of permafrost and yearning. Days that do not forgive. Not a time for birth, but we gathered in honor of one, forever ago, in days lost to photos where colors felt less sharp, the edges less crisp, the moments less real. Retrospect can have that effect, at times.

Thirty nine. Realizing that the numbers are reaching a level where age becomes less a measure and more an achievement. I’ve tried not to pay attention to them, but they become harder to ignore, after a point. Thirty nine years can sneak up on a man, if he’s not careful. Or even if he is.