Birthdays are special. Whether we admit it or not, we eagerly look forward to our birthday each year. It’s the one-day we are made to feel special and not guilty about the fawning and fussing our mothers subject us to. But, somewhere between the “I can’t wait to turn thirteen” and “oh good lord, I’m almost thirty!” we have started to dread birthdays. At least, I have. I am not exactly sure when I stopped caring about birthdays. Maybe it’s a result of prolonged bouts of living away from home; maybe I just missed home and mom’s special rice pudding that I learnt to suppress my excitement for my birthday. It’s hard to tell when exactly apathy took over.
As I grew older, I began to set goals for myself based on how old I was turning. With each milestone unchecked, a little part of me was being chipped away. Turning 29 was a bit rough, as I sat there in my room that night; I was overcome with a sense of disappointment and unhappiness. Some of the items on my ‘to accomplish’ list were clearly not going to materialize. My pragmatic self reasoned with my emotions, that those items were clearly juvenile and unoriginal to say the least. Yet, like all human beings, there I was sobbing uncontrollably at my failure to accomplish most of my goals. This is probably how it feels like to be a grown up, a series of unaccomplished goals coupled with mini triumphs.
But, birthdays are special. It reminds us and brings together people whom we love and care for deeply. I feel it’s important to remember and appreciate those who take the time out to be part of the festivities. These are your people; the one’s who will bail on you, listen to you rant and hate on your boss and coworkers with you. Value these people. They are the ones who shall wish you at midnight, order your favorite cake and throw you yet another surprise birthday party. Birthdays are days to be thankful. Thankful for friends who are now family. The ones who never bring you a present but stay for the cake.
Birthdays have always been special at our household. My mom and I are two days apart and my dad and brother are only a day apart. The months of January and May signifies cake-a-palooza at home. My fondest memory as a child was to wake up on the morning of my birthday to find our family room decorated with balloons and streamers and my presents laid out on the center table. It felt a bit like Christmas, but just for me! Even though my parents would go all out to plan a picnic birthday for me, I really missed having my school friends over on my birthday. Since we were always on winter break, I never got to stand up in front on my class and have everyone sing Happy Birthday to me. Clearly, I am still upset about it. This feeling of isolation on my birthday disappeared when I went to college and subsequently started working. Birthdays were no longer special. I was an adult, I had to go to class, take the pop quiz, submit a proposal, and sit through conference calls, all on my special day. The grass truly isn’t greener on the other side. I did get cake though. So I guess it wasn’t so bad after all.
Being the youngest at home, I got to celebrate my birthday all over again on my father’s birthday. Given that his birthday was a day before my brother’s they celebrated them together. And as my brother readied himself for the big moment, I stood right next to him, often on a chair to reach the dining table, ready to cut my dad’s birthday cake as if it were my own. I did steal his thunder, even on his birthday. Older siblings need an award for putting up with younger siblings like me. Those birthdays were the best of birthdays that I can remember. It’s been thirteen years since I got to be a part of my brother’s birthday. I see pictures of him celebrating with his family like friends and I do feel jealous. I wish we could go back to 1995 and have one of those simple special birthdays. Surrounded by friends and family, cake, chips, coke-a-cola and a piñata full of candy.