I grow up in a family where we don’t really celebrate birthdays, nor any other “secular” celebrations like when one of us got the first rank at school, graduation, and so on. I remember my parents only celebrated my birthday once, and it felt like centuries ago that I almost doubt whether I did really have a merry birthday party some time ago in my childhood or it was just my dream to have one. I don’t know where to find old photographs to find any trace of fact.
My best friend had asked me like a month prior to January 21, “what would you like for your birthday present from me? I need to save money from now.” I told her that I had so many things I wanted, and each of them was more-than-$50 book: architecture and cooking. She said she could buy me just a LITTLE-more-expensive present this year, with a serious emphasis on the word “little.” So I told her to buy me something else.
On January 21, Seoul was having a wet day. Rain was pouring down the city since very early in the morning. I checked on e-mails, twitter, and facebook. I found some notifications and mentions from friends and acquaintances wishing me birthdays, and replied some of them.
I had a lunch appointment with my former Korean Language teacher and also my ex-classmates. It was raining and freezing, but I was excited to go out to spend the afternoon with them. Our teacher treated us lunch in cozy Italian restaurant just around the block from my place. That’s for her birthday, actually, on January 17. We had celebrated it earlier on the 18th after her class, but then she invited us for this proper lunch treat. The restaurant was really homey and the food was good. Not the best, but they were good.
My Philippines bestie, Shanee, brought a cake for me and we had the candle-blowing event after the food. She actually didn’t buy me a “happy birthday” cake, instead it was a “happy new year” cake. Her excuse was “it’s a new year for you.” I disliked the candles for they were crowding the cake, which indicated my age. But I blew them anyway after hearing the group singing “happy birthday to you” Korean version and me making a wish in my heart. Shanee said, “i also made a wish for you?” I asked, “What was it? If I may know.” She proudly said, “The same wish as your father’s.” Oh, Dear.
My teacher asked me if I had any plan for my birthday that day. I said, “Nothing special…like I ever excited about anything.” She laughed and said, “I know”, which meant : I know, because you and I are so much alike. And yes, we do have same personalities and both of us admitted it. I even often tell Shanee that every time I see our teacher, I feel like I’m seeing the old me.
After lunch I just got back to my place and made a video call with my family back home. And then having dinner with the girls, the two Indonesian girls and Shanee, at a small but cute restaurant nearby our campus. If lunch was Italian food, dinner was Korean food. And the Indonesia girls gave me that cute pink planner.
People have their own ways to celebrate birthdays. For me, it never denotes a noisy party. The important moment has always been when I pray to God and make special wishes. The reality that I have my family and good friends is one thing I most grateful about in every birthday, the rest is big bonus.