A birthday party

I’ve always thought that birthday parties are overrated. I never had any surprise parties and I already forgot the last time I celebrated it. Last year, I even forgot that February 6 is my birthday.

When I was six years old, I remember my father and mother brought rice porridge, bread, and orange juice made from powdered orange mixed with water placed inside small plastic cellophane to my kindergarten class to celebrate my birthday. To my six-year old mind then, it was the biggest party in the whole world. Seeing my parents distributing the food to my classmates was more than what I can ask for. It was a nice feeling to be the object of a Happy Birthday song sung by my fellow 6-years-old children.

I forgot when I stopped celebrating it and eventually outgrowing the desire to have one every year. But I knew it was something I missed deep inside for no matter how tough we want ourselves to be, there are some truths that we simply can’t shut off from our psyche. Truths that has to do with our little dreams when we were too young to dream of conquering the world.

I just turned 23. It scares me a lot. Who wouldn’t be?

Being 23 excites me, nonetheless. I can feel all the possibilities in the future, of what I can do and accomplish, of what I can give and contribute to the people around me and the world.

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Outside Van Mieu (Temple of Literature), the site of the oldest university in Vietnam. The man on my right is a calligrapher. He was writing the character for happiness. I had to argue with Chi Le as to what symbol I’d have printed: wealth, wisdom, health. I opted for happiness. It’s been a long time that I was truly happy.

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Behind us are peach trees. The blossoms are the primary symbol for Tet and the coming of spring. It means new life, vigor, and hope.

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The birthday cake.

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There were six of us – Chau, Chi Le, myself, Duong, and the two guys not in the photo, Song and Hai. We spent it on the bank of Song Hong (Red River). The place is so beautiful that a lot of wedding pictorials are done along the river bank. In fact there were three couples having their pictorials there while we were also having ours.

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Of course Chi Le and I had to do some funny poses. The one above is the least funny.

I thought before that birthday parties are humans’ attempts to make aging easier to bear. But they’re more than that, I realized. They are meant to be savored with friends and the people we love and who love us. Birthday parties may be viewed as something pragmatic, but when we strip them down to the essential they’re expression of coming to age, friendship, love, happiness, hope.

Happy Birthday to me.

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2 thoughts on “A birthday party”

  1. omg! i never expected that you and i share the month of our birth! i celebrated mine last feb3. well, actually just like you, i never wanted any celebration but my friends are so insistent on having one. i guess it’s their own excuse of having a good time at my expense being the butt of how gracefully(?) i am aging! honestly, i never really celebrated my own natal days. infact, there were times when i just wanted to be by myself and hie off to some far places where no one knows of the occasion.
    but then again, i quite agree with kongleong on what he commented about the person who suffered the most.
    friends also who inspite of yourself would be there in most times. truly, they are a gift from heav’ above.
    well, here’s a belated happy birthday for us.
    when you get home, we shall have grand celebration of our birthday – hahahappy birthday!

  2. Hi John,

    I almost forgot since when I had had birthday celebration.
    It is nice to celebrate your birthday in new year mood. Again don’t forget on your birthday who suffered the most.
    Be a happy and humble person, it is indeed we should be grateful to have friendly people around us and support us. It is a gift from the upstairs.

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