Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene, I hardly paid it any mind. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that eighteen years later I would recall it in such detail. I didn’t give a damn about the scenery that day. I was thinking about myself. I was thinking about the beautiful girl walking next to me. I was thinking about the two of us together, and then about myself again. It was the age, that time of life when every sight, every feeling, every thought came back, like a boomerang, to me. And worse, I was in love. Love with complications. Scenery was the last thing on my mind.
– Haruki Murakami, N.W.
Yesterday was my birthday.
On my seventh birthday, my mother rented a McDonald’s branch to hold my party with hosts, games, Grimace and Ronald McDonald mascots. I wore a special yellow flowered dress and a white flower headband. I had light pink lipstick on my lips that made eating spaghetti hard. But I thought, hey, I’m a young woman now. I’m seven. I have a bit of make-up on. This must be how grown-ups are: eating carefully, nice dresses, protecting face, smiles on cue.
I watched my friends and cousins play games that the party host led. And as the birthday girl, I had my special seat in front where I got to watch all of them run around, play, laugh, have fun.
Parents and other grown-ups sat around the play area and watched. And I felt a bit better thinking I was doing the right thing: sitting and watching and clapping along when a winner won and the party host would ask me to hand a wrapped prize.
On my 18th birthday, my house was almost empty except for a few furniture left. I counted my friends who visited on my hand. My clothes and some books that my mother approved I could bring along with me were already packed. My bed was naked with no sheets nor pillows.
I watched my life slowly changing, getting replaced with a new one on the other side of the world.
My 18th birthday was a goodbye, not just to childhood but to my first home.
I didn’t want to grow up this way. But I must.
Yesterday was my birthday.
It was quiet, peaceful, calm. No big balloons, no mascots, no games. Our furniture was complete, and my family wasn’t going anywhere. Not anymore.
The man I love was beside me and gave me a birthday card with grammar jokes and a special edition of a book that has defined my life. My parents got me my favourite red velvet cake and my favourite chicken. The people who matter remembered and left me the warmest messages.
Yesterday, I felt loved. Just as I have everyday before yesterday and everyday after yesterday. Yesterday, I realized being a grown-up doesn’t mean accumulating more things, more people, more parties. Growing up is celebrating the people who have come and stayed, the life left behind, the life being lived, and the life waiting.
Yesterday, I wasn’t a grown-up.
I was just loved.
And today, I am loved.
Tomorrow, I know I will be.
And growing up is remembering this, holding on to this, in my highest and lowest and limbo days.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fly on the Wall.”
If you could be a “fly on the wall” anywhere and at any time in history, where and when would you choose?
My parents’s wedding.
It was a really simple ceremony back in 1986–done in a minister’s office. Minimal guests. Short preaching. An intimate dinner–immediate family only.
I would like to see their faces, their nervousness. I would like to see my Mom, 29 years younger, unknowing of what the future holds for her. And my Dad about to become a husband, promising to love the woman beside her, the one he fought hard for against those holding him back.
I would like to see the beginning of their journey, their marriage. I know there were small moments in this wedding–a small smile on my Mom’s face, a tear wanting to fall of my Dad’s eyes, a firmer more certain hold in their hands–that defined and reassured them that this was it. This was really it.
29 years later, I bet they’ll say “This is really it.” And they will laugh at each other. Their comfort so familiar and so easy.
And they keep on going.
Do you really lose anyone? I mean, they break your heart, walk away, and never see them again. Does this mean that you lost them?
Yes, you lose the person.
No, not the memory.
The person could fall out of love, love someone else, or just disappear. Anything goes when you give someone your heart.
But memories are resilient, stubborn, persistent.
Memories insist to be remembered, like an infant that will keep crying wanting to be noticed, fed, loved.
And you have no choice but give in to the demand.
I press the pedestrian signal to “WALK” and wait. My eyes wander around this part of the city where people criss-cross and transfer transit systems.
I look up and forward, and I see a silhouette of a boy standing on the other side of the street waiting for the “WALK” sign to light up.
I squint and realize I gave that boy the jacket he’s wearing. And years ago, my heart.
The “WALK” sign lights up.
He walks forward; I turn around, walk back, and make a path away from him.
“You remind me of someone,” he said.
But I wanted to be the only one.