On the Occasion of a Birthday
The real-life things more meaningful than “happy birthday”.
Today is my sister’s birthday!
As my older sister, I’ve always looked up to her— loved her as a dear friend.
I remember once, in junior high, I got detention after school — I cannot, for the life of me, remember what for. It was her special day, however, and my first reaction was “but it’s my sister’s birthday,” as if the day was as important as a national holiday and, thus, I couldn’t be expected to stay one minute longer in that institutional jail called our school.
If we got an entire day off for Presidents — folks I didn’t know and who likely never knew enough about people-like-me to do anything in our favor — then I shouldn’t be expected to spend a full day away during my sister’s birthdays, or mine for that matter.
My brother, mother, and father did not rank as high when it came to observing their special day. Nothing against them, but my sister was closest in age, personality, and life experiences. So, her birthday felt closer to home. Whatever is done unto my sister is done unto me.
Later in life, as recently as five years ago, when she and I were both still living in Seattle, she’d have birthday parties at the Rock Box — the Korean-style karaoke bar. These were always a blast. A handful of friends, drinks, snacks, singing, and dancing. That sums up the joy that is my sister. I’d mentally prepare my song list a week ahead of time; it was as important to me as any professional singer’s set, especially because I’d always dreamed of becoming a singer. One of the many things I never pursued.
What I did pursue, for a while, was a boyfriend-cum-fiancé that, among many other egregious acts, ruined my time at one of my sister’s Rock Box bashes. He always had a knack for getting us into fights and pinning it on me. And I could always be relied upon for taking the bait and taking it across the finish line. I should have dumped him then.
I also remember when my sister turned 40 — she had kids by then. She shut down, refused to celebrate her birthday. She couldn’t come up with anything that appealed to her, I think because a celebration meant acknowledging the passing of time.
I was incredulous; how could she ignore such a big milestone? One day or one year more, every day is a reason to celebrate. I vowed I would celebrate for the both of us when my 40th came around and I did just that. I dragged her to Iceland for a week-long celebration with friends. It was my way of reminding her that youth is a state of mind.
It was my way of saying more than just happy birthday.