I like birthdays, I think they are wonderful, a special day to celebrate the birth of your life. Every year I look forward to my birthday, but every year the day ends with me feeling deflated and sad, like something was missing and I have never been able to pinpoint it until now.
I have the most wonderful memories of my birthdays as a child. Every year my mom would quietly wake up my brothers and dad, and armed with presents, stand at the footend of my bed and sing me awake with Happy Birthday. Most of the time, I would already be awake, but I would pretend to be asleep so that I did not spoil the surprise. We of course would do the same for each others birthdays. Then we would usually be treated to a Sundae Serve or a Banana Split at the local Wimpy. Sometimes we had birthday parties, my younger brother and I are a year apart, his birthday is on the 7th of February and mine is on the 8th of February so every year we celebrated our birthdays together up until his 21st and then, well, our lives went in different ways and this tradition came to a halt, much to my sadness. The last time we were together on one of our birthdays was on my 30th when I decided that I was going to throw a big old birthday party, a Salsa night with Tapas, Latin American dancing and tequila. My mom made cake, no birthday ever went without one of my mom’s famous chocolate cakes, even if there was no party, you always got a cake on your birthday with candles to blow out whilst having Happy Birthday sang to you. That was the last truly happy birthday celebration for me, since then it has felt like my birthday has kind of gone downhill, I guess it could be attributed to the fact that my mom died a week after my 32nd birthday, the memory I have of my 32nd birthday is of my mom lying in her death bed, barely alive passing me the most beautiful birthday card. My mom and dad always used to give us the most beautiful meaningful cards.
So as my 48th birthday loomed ahead, I felt a sense of excitement but I also felt that usual feeling of sadness tinged with apprehension of being disappointed. Every year it’s the same thing. I always plan my own birthday celebration or get together, always secretly hoping that one day someone else would want to celebrate me and my birthday and plan something for me, but it never happens so this year I planned nothing. I wanted to prevent the feeling of feeling sad and let down at the end of the day, so instead I told my husband that for my birthday I wanted a girlie spa day. I’ve never had a girlie spa day before. This too wasn’t to be as the spa day was unaffordable for the girls, except for one of my besties who had been saving for months to spend my birthday with me. We had a lovely day together, but as I was getting over the flu and my friend was right in the midst of it, the day was not as great as it could have been if we were both well.
The day ended with my friend going to bed and my husband phoning me to invite me to join him for drinks at the Yacht Club. An impromptu date with my husband, I felt a little excited and rushed over to the club. Unbeknownst to me there was rugby going on and I arrived in the midst of it all. The date night I expected did not turn out as I anticipated, so I was soon back at home again in bed alone at 8pm on a Saturday night! The following morning, the day before my birthday, things just got worse and worse. I bid my friend farewell at the station and the rest of the morning was spent with me crying. By then I started to realise that the reason for my upset and constant birthday sadness was that I did not feel important.
I grew up in a family where we celebrated each other. My mom made a fuss of us children and my dad, especially on birthdays. She was the kind of mom that came to every concert; every play, every piano recital, every music evening and every sport meet (except for one). You could be sure to look over at the audience and see my mom’s face smiling back, silently sending you her encouragement and support. My dad was at most of these too but for some reason my mom was the one who stood out in the crowd as she would be the one screaming the loudest. I can still hear the sound of her voice as she would scream ‘run Tyrone run’ or ‘swim Debbie swim.’ The thing I remember most about my mom is the way she made me feel, like I was worthy of being celebrated. She had a ‘nickname’ for me, well not a nickname, but she referred to me as her ‘pride and joy’. My mom and I had an incredible bond. I had a similar bond with my younger brother Tyrone and I can remember how he too would celebrate me. I will never forget one party he invited me to, when I got there it was in full swing, he put the music off, took me by the hand and into the middle of the room and said ‘everybody, this is my sister Debbie’. On his wedding day, he did the same thing, he took my hand and took me around to every single one of his guests and introduced me. He even used to hold my hand whenever we crossed the road! How much more special can you get than that?
As I recalled all of these memories, I realised why I no longer felt important, why my birthdays seemed to be such a let-down. I had defined my ‘importance’ by the way my mom and brother celebrated me and with me. Nothing else seemed to neither match up nor compare, it always felt like something was missing, and there was; my mom and my brother! The two people who had always made me feel important whilst I was growing up and into my early thirties.
The next day on my birthday, I woke up to find a voice message on my phone with my dad and step-mom singing ‘Happy Birthday’ followed by my dad saying ‘Happy Birthday my Girl’ which of course had me in sobs all over again, but in a good way. My mom and dad always called me ‘my girl.’ In that moment being called ‘my girl’ I realised that I was important, that my importance is not defined by the way people celebrate or don’t celebrate me. It was time for me to let go of that and for me to start celebrating me. I realise that my importance is not defined by those around me, nor those who are absent from me; my importance is defined by this present moment. This moment where I get to choose how I live my life, who I spend my time with and what I am going to do with my time here on earth. My importance is simply defined by Me being Me.