We are finishing dinner when I begin.
“See, I always had an issue with birthdays.”
Smiling, he settles back in his chair.
“My mother always forgot my birthday…well, she still can’t figure out the right date…”
“You never know, maybe this year she’ll remember…the day’s not over yet.”
We smile at each other comfortably and I am filled with gratitude that I am sitting here with my best friend.
“Anyway – she’ll definitely remember my Hebrew birthday. Everyone does…because it’s a holiday. Just makes it worse. Like the holiday is remembered, therefore I am remembered. And here’s what I mean by that. All I ever wanted out of a birthday was the acknowledgment, or rather the celebration of the day I came into existence. It’s real appreciation for ME, regardless of how old I am or what I’ve done with my life. And getting a cake, although I understand that ten kids equals ten birthdays and the expected cake is the only fair way to go about it…just didn’t cut it. I wanted more of an emotional gift of pleasure that I am in this world.”
“You know that you’re talking about a very intense, deep view on birthdays, right?”
“Of course! But – that’s me. That’s who I am. So, not getting that validation always put me in a dark, depressive place because when a kid equates birthdays with people acknowledging their very existence, and then said people either forget, don’t say ‘I’m happy you were born’ or happen to have other things on their mind that day that cause feelings other than pure joy, a kid could start questioning their place in the world altogether and whether it might just be a better idea to ease people of the burden of there existing a child who no one cares exists. And yes, I’m aware of the immaturity of the logic – remember it’s a thought that somehow followed me from a different sort of childhood then what is considered ‘normal’ to an abnormal adult life that I’m comfortable with.”
He looks at me, waiting as I take a breath and look around the room.
The kids are running around in their pajamas, singing silly songs. The room is the kind of messy happy families create. There is a smell of wood that can only mean my husband has worked hard today to support us. The princess sign on the wall is starting to roll up a bit at the edge and the bits of colorful popped balloons hide in the one corner I forgot to sweep. The sun is setting over the mountains and I am content.
“So what I’m saying is, well, right now there are three people in this room, in the world, who are happy I exist. And I know it.”
I look up at him, lovingly, wishing he could take my heart and feel how overwhelmed with feelings beyond words it is.
“So I just wanted to say, thank you.”
He stands and begins to clear the table.
“Happy birthday,” he says, and I know that my birth was, for him, for my little girl and my baby boy, worth it.