I remember my 11th birthday.
Or at least, slices of it.
Surely, my mind deformed the memories, delivering altered, blurred moments. However, some emotions are bound to stay with me, and carry themselves around as a secret identity that I only make available to myself.
I was skinny and deeply tanned. Summer break, which always arrived in mid-June, meant three months of being an utterly village girl, with the chicken feeding, chamomile picking, garden tending, and all other chores. The sun would always burn my cheeks, the river swimming would tangle my hair and I would end up looking like some sort of feral specie instead of a town-schooled girl.
But not on this day. On this day I felt and looked like a daisy: cheerful, neat, and flowering.
One of my aunts gifted me a grey, gauzy skirt that she made herself, and I remember it because the zip had to be pulled up and down several times until it finally closed suitably.
But I was happy. It even had small pockets where I kept several money bills. Those came from my grandpa. I thought of him as quite stingy but here he was, gifting me money.
There must have been more gifts but the most beautiful and memorable one was a flower bouquet that a boy, an old childhood friend, picked for me from his grandma’s garden.
“Well, now, I must already be a grown-up. Only grown-ups gift and receive such big flower bouquets.
Up until now, I’ve only received some wildflowers and one carnation.
Now I’ve got a whole bunch of them.”
And it stayed with me, you know. The feeling that I was so important to someone else outside my family, that I had friends and they all came and greeted me as you would greet a young lady.
I felt for the first time that being celebrated was something I would always yearn for and I will always gift it to myself.
Next month, 20 years will have passed from that day.
I can still feel the chiffon skirt rubbing against my knees and the strong fragrance of carnation and zinnias.
While I move farther away from these sweet memories, they have built a life of their own, camping on some lonely platform inside my soul. They resurface here and there, candidly blooming over a sea of time.
Next month it will be my 31st celebration and I will, as always, make a wish, and a promise and give thanks on that magic day.
I am leaving behind some of my greatest years, but I’m excited because life has always loved me back and sailed me on some of the most thrilling adventures. For that and more, I will be forever thankful.
Cheers to Life!