Sean is pretty awesome at planning birthday surprises. On my 30th birthday he flew out to LA from NY to surprise me on my doorstep. Unwittingly, I messed up the surprise he envisioned. I spotted him walking up my driveway after I stepped out to take out the trash. He was bummed, but I was still happy to see him.
Today, my 40th birthday, I got in the way again. I spoiled his plans for a surprise breakfast of chilaquiles by going out for a long run (6.2 miles!) in the morning. He still made the chilaquiles, but I had them for lunch instead. Then we watched the video he made. Sean coordinated with 35 family and friends (not counting all the kids and babies!) to sing me Las Mañanitas and send birthday greetings. I messed it up by accidentally hearing a little bit of my cousin Bibi’s greeting while he was still editing the 15-minute video a few days ago, but he played it off.
The video was PERFECT. It even included a blooper reel. Of course, I cried while also laughing and singing along.
My sister later sent me a video of the full version
of her duet of Las Mañanitas with my dad. It wasn’t the same as hearing them sing outside my window to wake me up (which they did when I turned 20), but they still sounded amazing and I get the bonus of watching it over and over.
Last fall, inspired by a monthly doodle challenge to draw a party scene I drew my 40th birthday party. I knew there was no chance of it happening and as July became August I started to feel down. I felt a little silly because I’ve been fortunate to weather this pandemic okay. Not having a party for a milestone birthday seemed small when others have lost so much this year including missing milestone celebrations. Then I took the time to read one of the wellness emails from work. I usually skip them, but a comment by a colleague on the article about toxic positivity
caught my attention. It was what I needed that day. I realized I was minimizing my own feelings. It’s okay to be sad.
After all, I knew the party wasn’t at the heart of my sadness, it was knowing that it’d be many more months until I was in LA again and around my parents, siblings, tías and tíos, cousins, and friends. In March, sheltering in place didn’t feel hard because I had just come back from being around family for my padrino José’s funeral. But we were approaching the end of August and I knew we’d likely finish 2020 without feeling safe to travel.
I’d love to be in LA surrounded by loved ones and celebrating in person, but I know we can’t do that. The video was the next best thing.
Whether they’ve been in my life for 40, 20, 15 or 5 years, their presence is the true gift. Thank you for making me feel loved and I can’t wait for the time when I do get to see you again.