In this post, I would like to talk a little bit about the magic of birthdays, or rather the lack thereof. My childhood is colored by my mother’s amazing cakes, yet, the celebrations turned into a time of discomfort and anxiety as I grew older.
DISCLAIMER: This post contains descriptions that may trigger people with trauma, such as death, suicide, and alcohol usage.
In my childhood, as I mentioned, I had the joy of my mother’s cakes and more. She would always bake a cream cake, filled with strawberry jam and covered in fudge or fresh strawberries. She would set out the nice white cups and make my favorite drink: the green punch from Sprite and a particular pear juice. She’d go over and beyond to make a savory cake as well, a ham sandwich cake. That stuff was delicious, but luckily I have alternatives these harmless days!
Relatives would visit, ask mundane questions and make the birthday girl/boy feel special at the gatherings. Back then I loved having people over, and my cousins were my best playmates. We even had this running joke about my uncle, he loved the cake so much. It was always about the race to have your slice because when Uncle E comes to visit, there won’t be any left! Lovely times they were.
But everything has to come to an end.
After my parent’s separation, things were not the same. I suppose that would only be natural, given the circumstances. The visits to and from relatives all together got rarer, and on birthdays it was mostly the adults, coming over for a cup of coffee. I started losing touch with the grandness of the day, as it seemed to be about something other than me. And come on now, what kid enjoys the heavy, boring chatter of adults? Especially on their birthday!
It is in those years that I had one of the most unpleasant moments of my memory regarding the celebration.
It was a lovely day, a friend had come by, so I had someone to talk to and mingle with. It was a rather hot day too. I saw my father approach, and I was thrilled! Of course, I was, I love my father. He came in, and I smelled the excess cologne on the tacky jacket. The stench of it couldn’t hide the intoxicated smile, the disturbingly off voice. He had come to his daughter’s special day drunk.
Now, I’ve never been fond of huge parties or anything else either, but I do have it in me to feel better about myself when I’m remembered. As I became an adult, and the kid’s parties were left behind, I found myself without any reason to celebrate. The memory of my father’s visitation, the fact that my time with my playmate relatives was cut rapidly, and that I had very few friends at the time… Pair it with my developing, blooming mental issues and you get a young lady that started wanting to vanish at least once a year on the clock.
Then I met my first gamer friends. It was quite the crew, all the PVP and random nights in the fantastical realm of Warcraft. Between the restaurant celebrations and hardly being remembered as I went on, living in a relationship and tackling life, I had the first real party of my life. I imagine that is what it would’ve been like if I got to choose how to spend my 18th birthday (which was a complete dud may I say, no coming of age party for the friendless and loveless Maria, not that I would’ve really wanted one. I think it’s more about belonging somewhere, and that’s what people do with their friends in Finland at least). Homebrew wine in sticky glass bottles, great company, loud music, dogs, and parrots, it was wonderful!
Everything. Must. Come. To an end.
My friends died. One by one they got taken away. One of them was killed, one took their own life, and the third moved on when their heart failed. The first group I had felt a part of in my adult life, wiped out. Just like that. I never wanted to party again. Even these days, I can’t bring myself to enjoy homemade wine. I couldn’t play Warcraft either, for quite some time.
When family turns away
I did get the obligatory Facebook well wishes from many of the people around me. You know, the ones that make you look better because you ‘remember’. The ones that mean nothing when we know that it is the person’s ego and image, it’s not that they care about you or wish you well, let alone have an actual conversation about how you are doing in life. It’s a facade. But, be it what it will, at least I am being poked. I’m not ashes in the wind, I’m not a shadow. I am recognized.
It all matters very little when the ones that you cared for the most turn away. When the father, even if he was drunk the last time, stops showing up. When the sister’s voice can no longer be heard because she is in her own toxic reality. When the feeling of being torn apart takes over every year because you know that there won’t be a smile, nor a word, nor anything else that would tell you you are loved. That you are remembered. That you are still a part of your own family.
My pain is very real, my mind is still raw from it. Yet there is light in the day I dreaded for years. You see, my husband’s family is amazing. I’ve talked about them before in my previous posts. He and the family I’ve gained are the best gifts I’ve ever had the pleasure of receiving. Another group I can belong to, one that seems to want me around. That is something new to me, to be wanted to be around.
This year, when I went to bed the night before my big day (Mr. Vana had arranged for us to have our usual table in the restaurant we had our wedding feast in for the afternoon, made the food orders and everything ready, it was wonderful!), I stared at my husband’s back in bed for quite a while. I need not anything more, for this is more than I ever thought I was worthy of.
His family surprised me too, it’s bizarre for a Fin to receive such heartfelt words. All about wishing me the best things in the world, infinite happiness and health, and whatever else. In fact, should any of you have the privilege to take a look at my profile on Facebook, you would see the drastic difference in Finnish vs everyone else. It’s quite something to witness as a cultural difference! One gruff word against the tsunami of poetic well-wishes, us Nordic peeps could learn a thing or two.
Anyway, my birthdays are getting more exciting again, even with all the trauma I have from the past trying to bring me down. I have my husband to thank for that. And while my father and sister seem to have left me in the shadows, my mother keeps on going. She is a wonderful woman, trying her best in all of this chaos. I have no doubt she loves me, as much as I love her. Even if she wakes me up with a video call and I have to look at my extra chins the first thing in the morning!