Birthdays are a funny thing. When you’re young it’s simply a carefree celebration, I don’t think it matters much that it’s your birthday or someone else’s (except when you factor in presents). Games, festivities, decorations, cake, presents…it’s just all good stuff. You know the type of good stuff I’m talking about — when everyone is happy, laughing and having a good time.
My mom was great at throwing exactly that type of party. And looking back on my childhood I’m constantly amazed at the things she did for me. Being a single mother, steeped in East-Indian cultures and biases, she did not act the part. I remember birthdays at Fantasy Gardens, the beach, at home… Now those were the best because she would make all my favorite foods, decorate and arrange for my friends and I to play games likes hot potato and musical chairs. And of course my birthday cake was from this wonderful little bakery that used to be on Fraser Street in Vancouver. They made the best cakes and the best chocolate chip cookies – probably cause I only got something from there if it was a really really special occassion.
But as you get older birthdays lose there importance. You tell people ‘don’t bother’, ‘I don’t need anything’, or ‘ ah, we’ll celebrate next week.’. Which is all fine, I suppose, but don’t you want to celebrate your life? The trials and triumphs should all be acknowledged, every year.
In either case, birthdays are memorable and I have a few that are significant to me.
My sixteenth birthday was my first without my mother. I didn’t want to celebrate, but my friends were admant that getting out of the house would be good for me. Without my knowledge they booked a limosine and took me to a restaurant I had been yammering about for years. It was called Cloud 9 and it revolved (see the link!). But this place was fine dining and we were sixteen. I’m a vegetarian. They wanted me to eat things like snails. Ew. We booked it out of there and ended up at Red Robins. Much more my style – free birthday sundae, hello!?
Then there was my 18th birthday, the first year it rained. What a tragedy. This was the moment I recognized global warming was effecting us before everyone knew about it! Bitches!
Now this is where it gets heavy, but bear with me. For my 29th birthday, the land that I owned (a 50 acre blueberry farm) was sold in foreclosure proceedings. And the company that owned it, the one I had funneled almost my entire inheritance into (more details about this here) was officially caput. The money was all gone and there was still the threat of losing our home since there was a shortfall and it didn’t seem like my aunt & uncle were gonna own up to their share of the responsibility. But that’s not the worst part, when I was feeling so low, I received a phone call from my aunt at about 530pm to ask me what happened in court at the foreclosure. Then before hanging up she said, ‘by the way, happy birthday’. 30 minutes later my cousin called to wish me a happy birthday. That was it. My immediate family, the people I called mom, dad, brother, sister…had the entire day to say something, somewhere…online, in an email…something? Suffice to say it was an ultra low point, but a catalyst to see past the ties I had bound myself to them with.
And then I turned 30. I was still missing my adoptive family at this point but I was starting to see that the money meant more to them than I did. Then my friends showed me that family isn’t always blood. They threw me a surprise party that I had absolutely no idea about. I pretty much cried the entire time, I was so overcome with emotion. That people, just my friends (not blood as my adoptive family often told me, ‘only your blood will be there for you’) took the time to plan a party in my honor. I was flabbergasted. And humbled and awed by the love and generosity of my wonderful friends. It allowed me for the first time in a long time to wonder what I wanted. What made me happy. And why I had such a hard time giving myself that simple gift. It was a day I will remember for a very long time – it was the first step, since losing my mom, to becoming my own person.
Here’s what I wrote the night I came back from the party,
I’m not sure quite when it happened. Maybe after I wrote out my writing goals in my Golden Heart post, or perhaps it was before that point. I think I started thinking about getting old after my friend turned 30th. She’s exactly six months older than me, so I had a headstart on making sure that when I turned 30 I could be proud of what I had accomplished. And I can honestly tell you that when I thought back on my life, it was with a less than favorable eye. No one single thing has been simple for me and not even close to resembling the plans I had for myself. Actually, my life has been the opposite of what I thought I wanted. Which just proves that God really does know best. Not that I always saw it that way, but I see it now. The thought of turning 30 this year has done something to me. It’s like I took a fat, get-stuck-in-your-throat-Believe-In-Yourself pill and chased it down with a giant shot of courage.
I don’t believe the shit my adoptive family fed me. I don’t believe that what they did was right, or just, or fair. They are greedy and there is no other way to cut it. I wish there was because I don’t want what I know in my head to be true. I stood up to my aunt for the first time in years. On my mother’s death anniversary no less. She had many choice words and low blows, things like – I’m a terrible mother, that she hopes her kids don’t grow up to be weak like me and that she wishes I never had my inheritance because then I would have learned to stand on my own two feet.
These comments are ripe with hypocrisy and such incredulity that I find my only reaction can be laughter. And I can only laugh because it doesn’t matter anymore what they want or think of me. I never had their unconditional love when I obeyed all there commands, I don’t have much to lose now. The truth is, I am no longer affected by the illness of their greed for money and control. They might have taken all my money, but not my spirit. Somewhere deep down inside lay buried the woman I was becoming as a young teenager. I am going to find her. And when I do, those who have crossed me better watch. the. fuck. out.
A frighteningly fiery and passionate retrospection for my 30th birthday night, no? Well I’ve come a long way from that anger. Much of it I’ve let go, it served it’s purpose to help create a chasm between me and them. Back then I might have been swayed back to believing they did no wrong so it must be my fault. Today, I feel clear headed and calm. Peaceful with the choices I made (don’t regret anything because at one point it was exactly what you wanted) and the obstacles I had to clear to feel this way.
I feel true to myself, joyful about the future, and strong in my convictions. I’m not sure if people start to feel this way in their twenties or if I’m not so far behind everyone else. I think this post could come off as narcissistic, and perhaps it is, but I don’t want to waste another birthday or year believing that who I am, my hopes and dreams, my choices and beliefs, should be shelved for anyone or for any reason. I think that you should take the moments you can to celebrate yourself — good, bad, ugly, indifferent. It makes you you and that is a great thing.
Happy birthday to my friends that share this as their birthday or who have recently celebrated one. Hope it was a good one.