This past birthday, my 36th, was my first in Los Angeles. My dear friends Karla and Jun-Fung offered to take me out to dinner and tried to coordinate around whatever my pareja planned. Except I didn't know what he had planned. I'm not the type to set expectations but one thing I learned from this year is maybe that I need to, or at the very least have a conversation about traditions with my pareja since we obviously had different ideas of what a birthday/holiday should be like and celebrated.
My boyfriend didn't grow up with a lot of fanfare around birthdays or holidays. When I asked him about it, he could only remember one small party with friends and a cake. He admits to not being close to the remaining family he has, his two brothers andn sister who live many states away.
I have many years worth of birthday memories. Every four years my birthday and Mother's Day fall on the same day. Even when they don't, they are always within a week of each other meaning one set of gifts, one set of celebrations. This never really bothered me though because ever since childhood there has always been a celebration, even if that was just a cake and singing happy birthday in an apartment decorated with finds from the local 99 cent store. I've even been known in the past to wear a crown all day because, why the hell not?
Since so many people on my mother's side of the family have birthdays in April, often there was just one big celebration at my abuela's apartment in Jamaica, Queens where all the tias and cousins would pack it in and share a huge Valencia cake. At my father's house sometimes I would get a candy corsage and be treated to dinner at a nice restaurant and a Broadway show like Into the Woods, Grand Hotel, or Driving Miss Daisy. Even for my 7th birthday, when I was sick with the chicken pox there were people singing "Happy Birthday," blowing of candles, and public readings of heartfelt-albeit-cheesy cards. Last year, my dear friends hosted a small dinner party for me in the Bronx, complete with laughing over Turquoise Jeep videos on Youtube and over proof rum drinks.
This year, grateful that I wasn't working retail on my birthday, I woke up to kisses from my pareja, as well as to a book on the radical labor history of Los Angeles, and tickets to the Hollywood Bowl won at a raffle to benefit the wonderful organization Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN). My pareja had also bought me a really nice shirt from my girls. My little one made me a bracelet and a card at school and my older daughter woke up early to cook me strawberry pancakes. From NYC, my mom sent me some clothes, jewelry, and a card. My friends did take me out to a lovely dinner in Old Town Pasadena, complete with singing, candles and cake. And really that should have been enough but why didn't it feel that way?