Birthdays have always been special in my family. Regardless of finances and the general hustle and bustle of life, birthdays were all about you. There was always cake, a family dinner (the only ones my family ever had besides Christmas morning) presents, pictures, and general joviality. Every member of my extended family would call and sing not one birthday song, but two! I remember birthday parties at skating rinks, surprise parties after football games, and a luau themed cookout with an overzealous amount of tiki torches and grass skirts. Every year I wanted to have dinner at the same buffet style Mexican restaurant–Ponchos–so that I could raise the little flag when I wanted more sopapilla and wear the huge sombrero while everyone in the restaurant sang to me. I have ruined many a birthday surprise with my curiosity–a new iPhone was revealed a day early when I threw a fit because mine didn’t work, my friends told me about a party they were planning when I cried because they had been avoiding me for three days, and a surprise party almost foiled because I wanted to go home early from the event that was supposed to be keeping me out of the house. My birthday has been my favorite day for years and I have to credit my mother for always indulging me and making the day special.
College birthdays were a different animal. I was lucky to share a birthday week with a teammate a year older. In college, that means a combined birthday party—loud music, lots of people, small and unkempt dorm rooms, and a serious hangover the next day from cheap beer, boxed wine, and unfortunately skittle-flavored vodka shots. My 23rd birthday was my first as a working woman with working friends. That birthday meant dinner out, a “pre-game” at my apartment, then the bar scene at night. Several shots and mixed drinks later my best friend escorted me home where she forced water and advil upon me that did not do a thing to fix the damage I had already done.
While some consider birthdays childish after a certain age and no longer noteworthy, I still love to celebrate a friend with balloons and cake, I love the thought of the day being centered around celebrating a person’s life and enjoying that to the fullest. I still love my birthday, but birthdays have taken on a new form as I celebrate my 25th far from family and most friends. My 25th birthday has started with oatmeal in bed and two thoughtful cards written by my boyfriend. There is thankfully no hangover to nurse like after my 21st and there is not a living room full of high schoolers waiting to jump from behind a couch to surprise me. I open my computer to take a quick look at the weather and the news and am welcomed by the google search screen showing birthday cakes and candles—which is endearing but also really creepy (stop stalking me google). I reply to a Happy Birthday text message from a dear friend in California, read the facebook comments that will begin to litter my page from new friends and old, and I listen to Beyonce’s “I was here” to generally get the day started.
I am looking forward to the calls from my family, but moreso to the skype date with my mother where she will sing me not one birthday song, but two. There will be cake, cards that were mailed two weeks in advance, and I have already opened a brand new rain jacket and a pair of Toms. I know my friend Claire has slaved over an instagram collage that will appear sometime in the afternoon hours. My boyfriend and I will go to a baseball game, have lunch and a couple of beers at one of our favorite places and then come home for grilled dinner and wine. Birthdays have taken on a new face and the thought of it all makes me smile. I love the memories of birthdays past and all the people that have made my life feel special and valued every year since birth. This year I sent a card to my mother rather than her send one to me, because afterall this day changed her life as much if not more than it changed mine.
I am already loving this 25th year. Tomorrow, and yes I mean tomorrow, I am moving to Spain for a year of new challenges and personal and professional growth. Some days I am consumed by my thoughts of inadequacies and aspirations that seem unattainable, but today I feel strong. I feel loved, supported, cared for. I am not ready, but I am ready. Happy birthday to me. 25, let’s kick this thang.
P.S. To my mother: For making sure I always have cake on my birthday, for knowing that Berry Chantilly and chocolate are my favorite, for throwing countless parties and several surprise parties, for allowing me to be a diva for one month a year, and always sending an extra card when you didn’t feel one was enough, for every hand written note inside an elaborate card, for everytime you took that extra picture, for allowing me to celebrate a “hurricane birthday” in September because a hurricane ruined my real one, for sending flowers and balloons to the office of my work, for every time you drove 200 miles just to be there on my day, and for singing to me on Facetime today through tears from far away—thank you. I love you.