I’ve been writing this post in bits all month, and have been so busy it’s been difficult to find time to finish it, and now, my birthday is just a couple days away…
Yes, some of us have a birthDAY, but I see the entire month as an exciting time of year. Most folks surviving long, dark winters don’t particularly enjoy February. But I always have, because I knew that towards the end of the month, I had one day that was all about ME. And I like it. Now as friends are having children, I imagine that their child’s birthday will possibly be more special to them than their own. I also realise that my birthday must be very special to my mom as well, especially after thirty years…
This year, I’ve hemmed and hawed over what to do because I will be turning THIRTY. And isn’t that supposed to be a big birthday? Entering a new decade. Everyone says your thirties are better than your twenties because you know yourself and feel more comfortable in your own skin. I mentioned this to one of the women at work, who is nearing fifty, and she said, ‘Every day is getting to know who you are, it doesn’t matter what decade you are in!’ We laughed, but I think we all know it’s true. Somehow, we are still working to make ourselves feel good in our own skin, every year we turn older.
I’ve been putting pressure on myself and on Ali for how we will celebrate my birthday. I feel like it’s supposed to be this big memorable event because it’s THIRTY. Another friend of ours here will be turning forty. He’s celebrating a big one too and feels the same way, but in the end he said ‘I just want to bring all of the people I care about together in one place and have a good time.’ What he said rings so true in my own heart, but my challenge is that all of the people I care about are scattered all over the world. I think that’s part of the reason I think think think about what I want to do, when in the end, it doesn’t really matter what I am doing, but who I am with.
In my mental escapades to design the perfect celebration, I recall birthday’s of the past.
One birthday in particular keeps surfacing as I write…I’m wearing my favourite outfit, pink suspenders with pink pants that had people on them – my mom made them for me – and a bright pink ruffled shirt. This must have been the year of pink. I had just gotten my hair feathered and I was feeling ultra cool. I think it was my eleventh birthday.
Walking up the long driveway, first balancing on the log fences circling the cul-de-sac. The sun shining on the snow, crunching beneath each step. Reflections of the clear blue sky above and a single white, fluffy cloud passing overhead. Today was my birthday. And when I arrived home from checking the mail, we would get ready for the guests who would soon be arriving. In my hand, I held tight to the colourful birthday cards addressed to me, newly fetched out of the big green mail box at the end of our driveway. The trees swayed in the cool winter wind of that Saturday afternoon, warmed by the low sun in the sky. Getting impatient for the guests, I had taken a walk to see what the mail lady had brought me, one of my favourite things to do.
Having friends over was a big deal since we lived so far away from everyone, at the end of a private drive in the country, just outside the town where we went to school. A couple girlfriends from school would be coming to my party and then of course members of my family: cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. It was to be a grand affair, in my mind. My mom would bake my cake from ‘scratch’, any kind I wanted. I think this year I had opted for German Carob Cake with coconut frosting, one of my favourites. I had graduated from the shaped cakes of the past: elephant, and doll cakes. My mom could create anything. And would. For birthdays in our house were very special occasions. We always got exactly what we wanted to eat for dinner, which was also a treat. Since there weren’t always a lot of options growing up when feeding four kids, all with varying taste buds, we had our choice for our birthday dinners. My birthday menu? Home made macaroni and cheese, corn and stuffed mushrooms. Every time. And I got it.
I could go on. When I turned twelve, I was allowed to get my ears pierced. Then there was turning thirteen, official teenager-dom. Turning sixteen, learning how to drive. Eighteen, a legal age for some things and then at twenty-one, legal for most everything. I remember the ones in between, turning twenty, the first birthday without my brother Josh, I still have the last birthday card he signed, it was for my nineteenth. I could tell you every birthday, most of the cakes and the gifts. It was because my mother made sure each of us were celebrated on our birthdays, with love. So much love. And perhaps that’s why I put so much weight on celebrating my birthday. I remember every single one.
I fast forward to a more recent birthday memory, my first birthday with Ali. I recall it in short scenes, like photographs placed in an album in my mind…Nazareth. The 6th graders jumping out of a cabinet to sing ‘Happy Birthday!’ A bouquet of flowers to greet me at the office when I arrived after school. Stuffed mushrooms at Tishreen, our favourite restaurant in town. A surprise party at our new flat. I was up to my elbows in flour making friend onion rings — just because — when the doorbell rang and the ladies from work arrived with a large birthday cake and sweet, thoughtful gifts. Each moment was magic and I has a smile on my face all day. Here I was, far from friends and family but also surrounded by them at the same time.
And this year. I celebrate in London. The place it took me ten years to get to. Remember that friends, when I was supposed to move away to study in London for a semester in college? And even after the goodbye party had been thrown, I still hadn’t departed. But I digress. I am here now, and isn’t that magical in itself? And when I was a child, didn’t my mother always tell me ‘someday your prince will come.’ and I believed her until it didn’t matter anymore and then; there he was, on a tropical island in Malaysia. And here we are now, together. And I am about to enter a new decade. It feels good. No matter what I do, or where we go, but just because I am. I exist. I live. I celebrate. I breathe. I cry. I plan. I run. I laugh. I sleep. I dream. I hope. I love. I find myself all over again. Happy Birthday to me. Here I am, celebrating life. Every day.