Happy Birthday To Meeeee!
I’ve been thinking about my past birthdays yesterday – you know, the ones I had as a kid, when they were still magic and fun, as opposed to now when they are work, work, work. Sadly, most of my birthdays as a kid, I did not have birthday parties. A few relatives usually came over, but that was about it. We lived in a very small apartment, and, as I realize it now, my Mom wasn’t very good around large crowds of kids. I don’t really mind, because it made the few parties that I did get more memorable. The first time I was allowed to invite my friends was on my tenth birthday. My Mom was out of town for a month, at a training seminar from her work, and Dad went all lenient on me. I invited my two best friends – the boy I grew up with, and a girl from my class. My Dad baked a cake, we had tea, and then went outside to play. We had tons of fun on that day. To any of my kids, that would be like an ordinary playdate. To me, it was a birthday party of my dreams that I remember to that day. Boy, I was easy to please, wasn’t I?
The next party I had was on my fourteenth birthday. I was teenaged, clumsy, very bad-looking, and unpopular. I invited my two girl friends from class. One of the girls suggested that I invite a guy from our class, because his parents traveled abroad a lot and “he will give you the best gift”. He brought me a very cute plastic bag from a store in Finland. These bags were a hot item back then. I used it for a couple years to carry my stuff around. It wasn’t until many years later that I found out… my friend really had a crush on that guy, and that’s why she had me invite him over. We had fun.
The next party was my 16th. I was still unpopular and geeky, but I had a close circle of friends from school that I used to hang out with. In retrospect, had I been popular, I probably would have chosen the same friends… because they were fun to hang out with, and the popular kids were not! I invited all of my gang, and my best friend brought her boyfriend, who was a year older, also from our school. Back then in Russia, it was norm to have champagne on one’s sixteenth birthday party. No such luck for me. My Dad was a militant teetotaler. From his business trip to Moscow, he brought a case of Pepsi and a case of Fanta, and that’s what we drank at my party. It was great fun, even without the champagne. My best friend spent the entire party necking with her boyfriend. A few months later, he met someone else; they broke up, he got married; my friend married another guy at 20, and had two kids right away; her former boyfriend got divorced and came to see her, but she was already taken. I stayed in touch with my friend for all these years, even after I left for America, which was hard, because she didn’t have phone or email, and most of snail mail from here to Russia used to get lost on the way. Then in May of 2002, she got into a car accident and died in the hospital three days later, leaving two teenage children. Her former boyfriend worked in the hospital at that time, and made sure she got the best care available. He had loved her all those years, and could not forgive himself for having broken up with her – he considers it the biggest mistake of his life. I miss her a lot. I sure do hope there is an afterlife, because I really need to meet her. We have a lot to catch up on.
I hate to end a birthday post on a sad note, so I’ll tell you about something else. We had a family tradition when I was growing up. Both my Mom and I have June birthdays, within five days of one another. So on each of our birthdays, my Dad would get up at sunrise, ride his bike to the woods, gather a bunch of lily of the valley’s, and set the bouquet next to our bed before we woke up. You woke up on your birthday, and the first thing you saw were these flowers. I am in no way a sentimental girl, but that was very cool! I really do miss this tradition. I think family traditions, even if they are the littlest things, are important. This is what our children will remember when they grow up. We have a few. Some are strange. Some die a natural death as the kids grow older; but then, new ones are born. I hope my boys will have something to remember and say, “Well, my family was wacky in many ways, but I’m glad I am a part of it!”
So, what memorable birthday parties or family traditions did you have? Please feel free to share in the comments. Have a great week!