I've always loved my birthday (which I guess, with age, translates into being a "birthday diva"...) and being the center of attention in general. With Christmas in late December and my birthday in early February, there's just enough time that family feels obligated to get me two presents and close enough that Christmas feels like yesterday...fuck yeah! <--yes I thought this all the time as a child.
This year though is the big 2-1 (holla) which is exciting even if I feel like I already turned 21 last year when I was in Europe. Don't get me wrong though, I'm looking forward to being shit-faced but the excitement is not quite as strong as it should be. Five days after my birthday is Valentine's Day which has never been that important to me. Before this year I've never had a boyfriend over Valentine's Day. My main memories of this day growing up are filled with slight sadness but mainly memories of my mom.
My mom loved giving more than anyone I knew; she spent forever preparing each gift and would watch intently as you opened them. Through those awkward pre-teen/teen years I still had my mom around who never let me linger long on the fact guys didn't go for me. Each Valentine's morning I would come downstairs to a card sitting at my spot at the kitchen table accompanying a nicely wrapped small gift.
The significance of a card was taught to me from a young age and was harder to pay attention to on Christmas morning with all the presents sitting there, but I cherished them on those Valentine's Day mornings before school. She spent considerable time picking out those damn pieces of expensive folded paper and as I grew older I inherited this obsession, helped along by my working at a Hallmark store for three years.
She never thought store-bought cards were any less meaningful. My mom thought each word should be meant with your full heart; that was the true test of a wonderful card. By the time I was fifteen or so I was doing the same, especially for her cards. Sometimes I'd get pissed at how much time she spent on that fucking card but I know how much it meant to her in retrospect.
After she died, present giving became one of my favorite things with birthdays being my specialty. People ask sometimes why I care so much about birthdays, and this is my answer: "I think everyone should get to be celebrated one day a year." It's cheesy but true. I get a kick out of buying presents for others and love the moment they open the present.
I think that's why these gift-giving holidays, particularly Christmas, are so hard for me. My mom took so much pride in every element that it made the season brighter than imaginable. I love presents as much as the next person but I think it's those stupid folded pieces of paper that make me smile the most. The long, cheesy, overly wordy ones are my favorite for their ridiculousness and sentiment. I go for the sappy ones myself.
Regardless, having a large family is great because I get to buy eight cards at Christmastime now. I apologize to my boyfriend in advance for a dorky Valentine's card. My friends are used to it by now I think; probably just another one of my "adorable" quirks.
I'm excited I get to have a Valentine's Day for the first time but still do miss those childhood moments of coming to the table with a card and flowers. It's just one of those little things I think will stick with me forever and I am grateful for her small acts of kindness that made me smile.
My mom, my sister Stephie, and me in wintertime when I was eleven