Yesterday was my birthday. I love birthdays, it’s like a little holiday just for me. I don’t mind getting older. I’m throughly enjoying my 30s, look young for my age and am not shy about sharing. Part of this might come from living in Laos for a year where it’s very common and not at all impolite to ask someone’s age to help determine status, respect and how they should be addressed.
I usually have a birthday party. Last year I decorated my living room with balloons invited all my Lao and ex-pat friends over and had a pot luck.
This year I was home in Cleveland. My mom remarked that it was the first time since high school that I would be home for my birthday. I decided that I needed to relive our childhood tradition of having a “friends party” during the day and a “family party” for dinner at night.
When my siblings and I were very young we would invite our friends over and my mother would put on a great party complete with games like “memory tray” where everyone looks at a try of kitsch for 10 seconds and then tries to remember everything, a craft like tie dye or beading necklaces, and of course presents and cake.
Some of my friends had ice skating parties, bowling parties or Chuck E. Cheese parties. We never did. I vaguely remember my little brother had a bowling party once that I was supposed to help out with. I walked across the street to buy candy at Drug Mart with my friends and surely wasn’t a big help.
One year I had a snow party and my friends and I dressed in snowsuits, made a fort and threw snowballs. When I got a little older I started having sleep overs full of late night movies, gossip and pancakes for breakfast. I had my sweet 16 and 18th birthday at my grandparent’s house. Their finished basement was a huge playroom complete with a dance floor, pin ball machine and pool table.
In college I was into theme parties. One year I threw Gina’s Biblical Bonanza where everyone dressed up as their favorite bible character. I was an angel. Creative shoutouts go to Lot’s Wife who brought Jose Cuervo a container of salt, the burning bush and a “bible belt.”
When I turned 22 I had a Robots Vs. Aliens party. A fog machine, DJ and a lot of aluminum foil made that part a hit.
When I lived in Chicago I usually went out for my birthday either to dinner or dancing or both.
This year I wanted to live out my fantasy of being the next American Ninja Warrior and brought my friends to Play:Cle, an indoor jungle gym, ropes course, obstacle course and climbing wall in one. It was super fun. Our two hour wrist bands let up climb up a huge ladder and jump to the trapeze or grab onto a punching bag. I climbed a tower of giant rubix cubes, ran through an obstacle course for time, climbed ropes, did the monkey bars and zip lined across the giant warehouse that holds all the equipment.
Afterwards we came back to my parent’s house for a Lao-style meal. I introduced my family to Laap, the national dish of Lao and cucumber salad. We had sweet potato chips and fruit skewers and a lot of fun. I got some hiking socks, trail mix, a visor and a small rock for my next adventure.
This April I’m hiking the 500-mile French route of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostella. Along the way the Cruz de Ferro is a famous landmark. Pilgrims bring a rock with them on the trail to symbolize their burdens and leave it at the cross as they continue on. My parents got me a heart shaped piece of polychrome that is protective and provides balance. I’ll carry it with me then leave it on the pile with all of my burdens. 32 is looking pretty good.