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I’ve been dreading that day, as each anniversary, each repeated occasion, is a time of hesitation, of fear of the feelings and memories it would evoke. My birthday is a big one. My Mom always made a big deal of it, made a fuss. She had even made up a special cake made of hazelnuts, specifically for my birthday, never to be made at any other time. It was MY cake.
Today is my first birthday without her. But knowing how she felt, I made a point of “celebrating” it. I invited my closest friends to a late supper. But my heart was heavy and I really could not have them singing Happy Birthday, that would be too painful. I went about the preparations with sheer determination. I remember she used to repeatedly say to some of those very friends: “Don’t allow Aida to stop her parties after I am gone, that would make me very sad”. This is mainly the reason I am having this gathering.
I woke up at 6 am with an upset stomach, nausea, and not a whit refreshed by my sleep. I just could not get up. I knew I had a lot to do, but as they were invited to supper, I had all day to do it. By 8 I had gathered enough strength to get up and face the day. But I could not face breakfast.
I took myself down to the kitchen to start the preparations, and of course the two babies, Helen and Troy, were at my heels. I let them out in the garden and started my work.
Unlike previous gatherings, this time I wanted something light, tasty and elegant. So I opted for finger food, canapés, cheeses and seafood. My speciality is to put ready made ingredients together and present them in an appetizing manner. So I took on the seafood.

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I made a medium sized platter which looked great once it was done. I had also ordered another platter by a very well known grocery shop, made up of all kinds of cheeses and cold cuts.

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There were some hot plates as well which I had catered from my usual caterer.
By noon I was done, and exhausted. The weather was pretty warm and my back was killing me. I thought I would go up, take a long hot shower and rest. Then suddenly a thought struck me. What sort of birthday is that? What would I really like to do. And there was the answer. I want to go for a swim with the dogs. So off I went.
The moment I stepped into the pool and called them, they literally threw themselves in. I stood in the shallow part, and when they ventured a bit deep for them, always led them back to where they can reach to stand on solid ground. We splashed around and I was as excited as they were, till I wanted to swim and stretch my aching muscles. I started to swim to the other side of the pool when out of the side of my eye I saw Troy swimming after me. I stopped. And there he was, laboring to reach me. When he did he scrambled up and I had to hold him up as he was tired and could not swim anymore. This scared him, so when I took him back to the shallow part they both jumped out of the pool and started wallowing in mud.
I left them to their enjoyment and swam a few laps. With every stroke my muscles relaxed and my brain calmed. My soul was soothed, and cheered by the splashing about in the pool with the dogs.
Half an hour later I took them up to the bathtub and gave each one a thorough bath. They were covered in mud, but very happy indeed. Then I took my own shower. Ever since the splashing around my mood was getting lighter and more cheerful. By the time I had given them their lunch we were all so relaxed all three just dozed off in the living room.
The ping of messages received on my iPad woke me up. I had not looked at Facebook yet so I opened it up and found a barrage of birthday wishes and cards from practically everyone I know. Such a lovely, warm feeling. So much love. My mood soared.
One of the messages was from a new neighbor, whom I had gotten to know, him and his wife, on Facebook. So when he messaged me that he was right there at the compound, overlooking some of the finishing work to their house, I invited him over to the evening’s gathering so that he could get to meet some of his future neighbors. Another virtual friend turning into a real flesh and blood one.
From then on things kept getting better. I received a beautiful message from my younger niece, a message that really touched me. Then I received a telephone call from my older niece and her family in London. Finally I got a call from my brother. I teased him that he just saw the reminder on his phone that’s why he called me. He denied it vehemently, then said it was his daughter who reminded him. We both burst out laughing and that put the icing on my day as a really good one.
I like that my birthday is at this time of year. It looks like the garden has come into its own and was blooming beautifully, just to make my birthday special.

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The flowers were all out, a riot of pink, blue and white. The trees were filling up with new leaves and the pink flowers starting to spread. Nature was warmly wishing me a happy birthday. My boys worked very hard in setting up. They did an excellent job as usual.

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My friends came in, and so did our new neighbor and everyone was introduced around. As is the case we drifted on to two tables, one where the men sat and the other where the women gathered. It was funny, because now the discussion at the women’s table was politics, and we joked that the men were probably talking about domestic help: a reversal of roles. But they were probably discussing the World Cup. Although the evening was warm, yet a slight breeze made it pleasant.
I was very happy by the way my guests received the new menu, was flattered by their appreciation of everything that I had prepared, and a good time was had by all. Helen and Troy were a big hit with most of my guests.

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The card my friends gave me, along with their present, on this occasion touched my heart, and after hours of real calm and cheer, brought tears to my eyes. It was signed by all my friends and addressed to me as their “sister”.

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The last sentence was the one that got me “But most of all, you’re wished the kind of happiness that comes from knowing how very much you mean to so many people.” This overwhelming love is what makes my world go round, this warmth I keep getting at every turn makes life worth living. Thank you family and friends, you have made a dreaded day pass much better than expected, in fact, you turned it into a lovely day. God bless you one and all.
14 June 2014

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