In my house when I was growing up, birthdays were a big deal. Need I remind you of this grandiose cake?
My very first memory is of me at my 2nd birthday party. That’s right, two years old. I have a crazy accurate memory of almost everything about my childhood and it goes back that far. It’s not a fully-formed memory or anything. Just sort of a hazy sensory flash of myself, at a table, and my dad taking out a little wooden toy dog from a box. The dog was wearing skis.
Of all things to remember. Leave it to me to have a weird first memory. A wooden dog with skis? Why the hell?
Anyway, I have an ever more vivid string of memories of each birthday after that, all the way through adulthood. The only birthday I don’t remember is the one where I was, you know, born and stuff. And I don’t remember anything about my first birthday. Which is kind of a shame because I hear it sort of rocked.
At the time, my parents lived in an apartment complex which has since been torn down. Recently arrived in this country, they had four little kids in a teeny cramped two bedroom apartment. The apartment complex was full of other immigrant families, many of them with kids. This place gave my parents a sense of community and all of the people that lived there became very close, very quickly. When my mom brought me home from the hospital, I was the only baby around and therefore sort of the darling of the bunch. I hear I got passed around constantly and my parents were never short on babysitters. When my first birthday rolled around, my parents threw me a bash. It was in the basement laundry room of the apartment building, and all the kids came. Of all ages.
It resulted in this photo, which is one of my all-time favorites. Come on, can it get any more awesome than this?
I don’t know what I love the most. My sweet sister, holding me in the middle? My brother, next to her in a crooked yellow dress shirt? My other brother, standing like a ramrod with his tinted glasses and checkered pants in the back? The other kid next to my sister flashing the motherlovin’ peace sign? The little kid in the front who looks like he’s getting his brain squeezed between that dude’s knees and enjoying every last second of it? There is something especially touching to me about the looks on my siblings faces. I know that their transition into this country was unbelievably hard on them, and seeing their sweet faces smiling in such a happy moment, surrounded by all of their new friends, sort of breaks my heart a little bit.
So I don’t know what I love most about this photo. All of it, I guess. I just love all of it. What a way to inaugurate a lifetime of birthdays. I wish every birthday of mine could be as sweet, full of love, friends, family, and crazy outfits, just like that first one. It’s a hard one to top.