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: “Just a Dream.”
You’re having a nightmare, and have to choose between three doors. Pick one, and tell us about what you find on the other side.
The First Door.
It was a door to the past–but not just any past. A particular past. The kind of past worth cherishing, fondly remembered. There were four people standing beyond the door:
a friend who was happy and told everyone to be happy,
another friend who smiled to me and gave me that encouraging “Okay!” thumbs-up sign right before my speech,
a friend who stood beside me and stroked my back as silent tears blurred my eyes,
and another friend who took my hand and danced with me with the kind of dance that could have gone on forever.
To walk through that door would be a dream; to forever stay with them, impossible.
The Second Door.
It was a door to the present–but not my present. The other kind of present happening at the moment but outside my awareness. The tears my parents shed in darkness, the sighs of my friend giving up, the quiet prayers of another friend asking for hope against hope, a friend talking to a wall and asking questions with no answers, my grandmother calling out to me, a neighbour touching his wife with heavy knuckles and ringing slaps, my aunt wondering who the stranger sitting inside her daughter’s room is and who looks exactly like my cousin, and my high school teacher controlling but succumbing to that urge to touch those faces sitting inside the classroom.
The Third Door.
It was a door to an empty room except for a window that showed me what was beyond the first two doors.
The third door was the one I opened.