Today is my birthday.
The birthday I was dreading yesterday, somewhat. Sort of. The birthday that I had today. 18.
My alarm went off at 8am. I turned if off, as I do everyday and then rolled back over and went back to sleep. I figured that Mom and Dad would come in and wake me up in time to come to church, but the next time that I woke up, I surfaced to sounds in the kitchen and the smell of bacon. I laid in bed for a while, drifting between two worlds, until I pulled up enough energy to get up out of bed and go to shower.
When I was ready, I walked into the busy kitchen to a chorus of “Happy Birthday” sung, of course, off key since my family doesn’t know how to sing any other way. I sat at the island as Mom and Dad bustled around. Mom said something along the lines of “I give them one job to do and they turn it into the longest job possible. We have so much to do.”
I didn’t think of it then. Didn’t think that anything was strange or off, but now that I look back, now that I know what was going on, I realize that there was too much food, that Mom was in too much of a rush, that something was obviously going on.
And as I stood outside with my siblings, taking pictures un the streamers they’d hung and of the chalk wish that they’d given me, I saw one of my best friends drive by. “Is that Abby?” I said, “That looks like Abby.” How sweet, I thought, She’s stopping by. Bu then she drove by our house and parked down the street and my sister just kind of shrugged the whole thing off. That’s when I got it. Surprise.
I hate surprises but I liked this one. I loved this one actually. First Abs and Zo (fresh back from a month abroad!) came. That was enough but there was more. Emmaray and MK and we brunched (SO KNEESTER!). It was perfect. They each brought me something which was unnecessary but I loved it. I loved seeing them all. Being with them all. I love my friends. They make me who I am.
Then spur of moment, my family and I decided to accompany Emmaray to her log rolling open house and I spent the next hour in the dirty lake with my sister, struggling to balance on top of the log. We both made it for 5 seconds! So proud!
We then returned home and I opened presents. I received a lot of stuff for school (in a month!) which was super nice and quite helpful, although it caused my desire to begin packing to become stronger, kicking in my OCD:) I then spent the next few hours playing board games with my family (Pictionary and Triva Pursuit) girls verse boys style. Us girls won Pictionary and Triva Pursuit needed a time limit since that game can go on forever.
Nana and Papa called.
The rest of the day was spent between my bedroom on my computer, being showered by online birthday wishes from both my friends and family. I loved each and every one of them. MK and her brother left me a video that included a Sound of Music song–our personal favorite. Rachael left me a video too, which made me laugh and cry. Rach’s mom posted pictures of us in Panama on my wall too, with birthday wishes attached.
Then I received a call from my host uncle, Roberto. He talked too fast–I didn’t understand half of it but that doesn’t matter. Just hearing his voice was enough. He asked when Rachael and I were coming back and understood that as much as I want too, I have to go to college in the fall and a plane ticket might be too much money.
Money and lack of it is something he understands.
In the background of it all, was Emily’s CD. She’s in Kentucky, changing the world, but she gave MK a CD for me, which was beyond sweet. I loaded it on to my computer–I’m listening to it now. It’s perfect.
Then we all watched Friends, because what is any good day, without Friends?
To wrap it all off, yesterday my friend from Australia sent me surprise flowers and a balloon. (See picture). Such a kind, unexpected gesture that still makes me smile.
It’s strange, it really is, that a year ago today, this very moment I was in Panama. I remember so much about that day, that beautiful day. My best birthday. The breakfast with Angelica, the pinatas, the cakes, the candy, the flour in my hair, how they kept saying I was embarrassed and that’s why my cheeks were so red and I would rebuttal with “No, I’m sunburnt!”, the presents, the hugs, the bag of food that my host family gave me, Rachael’s message in a bottle, the chorus of “Felicidades Meghan!”. Rachael said in her video today that I cried. I don’t remember that but I’m sure I did. The kids were so excited. The presents were so generous, the laughter at my missing the pinata was laughter that was laughed with me, not at me. I was happy. That ball of happiness that seemed to be stuck in my chest–in that moment I couldn’t remember it ever being so big. I think it might have been in that moment, in the moments that made up that day that the people of Santa Isabel became my family. No, I’m sure it was before that but it was in the moments of that day a year ago that I realized that these strangers had turned into people that I love. Into friends, into family. It was a year ago today that I realized that I could find my own place, all on my own. That’s what I did last summer-I made my own family. I hadn’t known before then that I could do that. That I was capable of such a task.
I’ll be honest. This world that I live in, it’s not the same as the world that is Santa Isabel and in this world, it is quite easy to forget. I do not think of Santa Isabel and it’s people everyday, not consciously. Part of that is because I got to a point where I could no longer physically reflect on the memories of it all everyday. It was eating me alive. Part of it is that I’ve moved on–it’s impossible not to. There are still so many things to be discovered, to find, to celebrate, to experience, to learn. Part of it is that this world demands so much of my time and my attention that I don’t always have enough left over.
But it is always in the night, when everything else falls away, that they come to me. All of them, I see their faces clearly in my mind. Alma, Angelica, Meri, Mari, Enni, Ivan, Jorge, Yosi, Yoseph, Roberto, Delys, Rosi, Ana, Leidys, everyone. There are too many to list. They are my constant comfort. They are not always in my thoughts–I will be honest about that–but they are always in my heart. They guard it, which makes sense since it does indeed belong to them.
My day was perfect.
I am no longer scared.