Before I start, allow me to speak of one truth about me that I don’t think will ever change. I don’t like surprises. The fact that you think I’ll like this surprise doesn’t rule out the fact that the other time I may have seemed to like it was so as not to break your heart, spoil the moment or it was probably all in your head.
Second, I still haven’t gotten the whole idea of thousands leaving their homes and lives to come and look at me. Just me. I’m still discussing with God how we can go through my wedding without so many people. Friends and loved ones, I really do want you around me, but I can’t take it like that.
Simple conclusion. A big no no for me is a surprise birthday party. So that rules it out as being the reason for my love for birthdays. Let’s get personal here talking about the day I can’t forget, the most awaited 18th birthday.
This is the first birthday to be celebrated outside of school as my birthday always falls on a school day or a school weekend. Whatever happens, I get to be in school in a maximum of two days. This time around, I’m at home for the week break that final year high school students get before their final exam. Ignoring the fact that my parents are never a big fan of birthdays, I can’t keep quiet about getting to spend the day away from school to my friends and without realising it, I have become expectant. Highly expectant.
At 23:45 the day before, I receive a call from a friend and in about 16 minutes, there is a conference call which gets me emotional hearing wishes and blessings from the most beautiful ladies that God has made me meet. I’m not sure when I fall sleep but then I know its day when I suddenly feel cold and wet. My cousin has just emptied a sachet of water on me. Perfect, right?
Terribly wrong! Did I mention I catch a cold faster than the average human? I do and that’s what happens to me next. Atishu! Whoosh! Atsu! Make no mistakes, I actually sound like this when I sneeze. I look down my nightie and then it makes sense why I add four more sneezes before a minute is over. She added talc powder. For the sake of my birthday, I’m about to pretend I’m not peeved and tell her it’s okay when mum opens the door.
I switch to the puppy look that should convey the “oh you shouldn’t have” message when she announces it’s a Saturday and a clean-up—everyone get busy! The air literally stills around me. And although this isn’t as terrible as the day she asked if I had turned 14 when it was supposed to be 15, I still decide to be shocked. It’s a decision I took ignoring the memory of my sister telling my mother it was my beautiful day.
So of course there was a general cleaning that day and I was allowed to sneeze in between the mopping of the kitchen floor and cleaning the louvre blades. On my way to the room after the late morning shower, the Electricity Company took away what was rightfully theirs. My present state? A runny nose, red eyes hidden in swollen eyelids (they are perfect escorts of a runny nose) and a body that is being grilled in the oven of my room.
So yeah I get unreasonable when I can’t solve up to five Elective Math questions because I can’t focus and can’t see a thing in the room lighted by the miserable-looking candle and I want to run away. Run away because my dad has not yet wished me and because my best friend hasn’t and because my soul sister hasn’t and because my most annoying hater who cannot forget because I’m exactly a month older than he is hasn’t wished too. Don’t get me wrong, others wished me and if you were one of them, I really appreciate it (it reduced my tears at the end of the day) but my selective heart isn’t satisfied.
Choosing to forget that I still have a curfew at 8 o’clock, I step into the darkness without any permission and insulting the Electricity Company for the seventy-sixth time that day. Stanley calls and I’m glad. I’m my most conversational tonight hoping we keep talking till the end of the world so I wouldn’t have to think about how miserable I am, coupled with the nasal voice the catarrh brought along.
It’s only when the call ends that I realise that I have missed five calls from my mother. I call back and she yells at me to come home and to be sorry for the worries I have brought to them for ‘disappearing’. I walk home wondering how many girls get to spend their legal 18 without a birthday present, in total darkness, with red, itchy eyes coupled with a headache brought about by a runny nose. I decide I’m part of the privileged few and I rejoice.
I’m finally ending the day here. I’m so sleepy but I’m still up because my phone says 23:30. I doubt I want to miss my dad, best friend, soul sister and most annoying hater’s calls as they compete for being the last callers on my birthday. When its 23:50, I try to picture one of them getting airtime from wherever or unlocking their phone or saying a prayer before calling. At 00:00 I cry. Literally, I do. I’m so disappointed I think I want to die.
My day is over. I’m 18. And it was that awesome.
Why do I love birthdays? I love them because they remind me of how tremendous every non-birthday is. And they teach me not to be too dependent on my loved ones. They teach me that there are a lot more people that care than I think do and that at the end of the day, I’m really alone.
And yeah, they tell me that my parents celebrate me every day that’s why it’s hard for them to single one out. That’s why I simply love birthdays.