Happy birthday to you (repeat x24)

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As of this year, I’ve eaten 24 birthday cakes – all just for me. Several people, on April 27th, asked me, “How has your birthday been?”

“Good!” I told them, beaming a melting vanilla smile.

Several times I asked myself the same question.

“Bad…” came my hushed whisper.

I spent my day wiggling and giggling with people near and far. I was celebrated, thanked,  gifted and loved. But all day something felt wrong. Something stomach-churningly familiar, similar to being overstuffed with cake and being asked to take another bite. A filling emptiness.

I remember the year of my 19th birthday. I worked all evening and somehow ended up working later than expected, missing dinner with my boyfriend at the time and the rest of my family. I came home to a cake, deserted on the counter, where a walmart employee scrawled my name across a sheet cake. Looking around, it was just the two of us, the dim kitchen light like deflating balloons above us. I spared her with a scrunched side smile and slipped downstairs into my room. As I laid on my bed, my thoughts partied in my head.

Happy birthday? Are you sure? Happy? Birthday? How embarrassing. No one to celebrate you. No family, no friends, no boyfriend. So much for this continued existence of yours.

The only thing in my goody bag was sleep, which I stole into soon after.

In stumbling upon these regifted feelings, I find perspective. I’m still unwrapping the unexpected gifts that come with candle-eyed curiosity of my own imperfections, insecurities and inevitabilities. I’m still unwrapping the fact that my feelings, thoughts and whole self are to be sang to – even if no one else is.

Happy birthday. Actually, scratch that. It doesn’t have to be happy. But, birthday – thank you for the reminder to keep celebrating me – regardless of who, or if anyone is at my party.

*   *   *

Last birthday,
April showers brought
fingernail-biting flowers
perennial processing: pruning my pink pulpy petals
pitter-patter
patter-pitter.

This birthday:
Present? wrap
blooming bones
flowering faces
growing glimpses
of me.

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