birthdays are vulnerable

I had the pleasure of spending the morning with some growing friendships while we celebrated a birthday. I learned that my new friend, Christine, celebrates her birth day every year with a day of food. She and her husband, Jack, lay out where she wants to eat breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner, and dessert, and then they invite others to join them. Not only does Christine get to eat great, happy food but she gets to experience her friend’s love for her while she gets to share her favorite foods with them.

It’s a mutual love session, food and friendships.

Today we all met at Dish, a lovely breakfast/lunch place in Frelard (the place where Ballard and Fremont merge and the boundary line blurs). Christine loves the biscuits and gravy – and, as a Southern woman I will say that she has good reason to; they are delish! – so while we all perused the menu and while I debated between the breakfast sandwish, the Slacker Especial, and the blueberry pancakes, we talked about her previous year and how she and Jack keep track of the holidays they enjoy, how they celebrate each birthday, etc. and the possible ways she could celebrate next year (side note: how cultural is it to not even allow someone to enjoy today without helping them think of ways to do it better next year? or is that just my inclination?).

I said she should have a big birthday dinner at her place where everyone brings a dish, but the dish had to be something that reminded them of their birthdays growing up. That way we’re not just sharing food but we’re sharing stories of how we grew up, why this dish was so special to each person, and what memories are associated with this dish. I would make Kim Maxwell’s lasagna or the chocolate bumpy cake she makes me every year.

One of my favorite birthday memories was when my mom, her parents, and I think my brother took me to Zio’s, this Italian place that has butcher paper on the tables and a supply of crayons so you can doodle. At some point in the evening they started talking about memories of me through the years and we made a list of things they remembered about me at one year old, two years old, three years old, and so on. I finally got to the point where I could add to the conversation but it was more fun to hear their experience of me as a baby, a toddler, a kid, and how they handled my more spunky moments in life.

Sharing memories is a hugely vulnerable thing because sometimes our memories aren’t that great. I could also tell you about my 9th birthday when I was home sick with the flu and missed my choir field trip to sing in downtown Houston. The next year, at age ten, I invited my entire class to a party at my house and no showed up. Happy new decade to me. Even typing that sentence I want to cap it off with a joke so that I don’t feel so exposed, but the truth is I cried for a few nights, feeling so hurt as a 10-year-old girl that my classmates didn’t seem to want to be my friends.

It’s hard to be vulnerable, and it seems like asking people to celebrate you or an accomplishment you have achieved (like living another year, KUDOS!!) is vulnerable. I’ll always have a fear that no one will show up to my party. I’m not sure that seemingly small scar will ever disappear, but I still invite people. I still cook a giant pot of spaghetti sauce and pray that they come because I long to know that others want to celebrate me as much as I want to be celebrated. I know I’m worthy of a party, but do others?

Today we celebrated Christine. I ate some of those biscuits and gravy. We shared blueberry pancakes as a table. I had the most amazing breakfast sandwich. Drink the coffee at Dish, it’s good. If you ever cannot find me, you need to search for me at Dish because I might have fallen into a carb coma underneath their tables and that’s really not a bad way to go out.

Happy days to you, Christine! Thank you for letting me celebrate you.

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One thought on “birthdays are vulnerable

  1. Oh, my darling girl… I understand completely. And I want you to know that I would do my best to come to your party because you are amazing and absolutely worth celebrating.

    And boy, could we ever celebrate!!

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