Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to Have a Birthday

Six years ago, my birthday would have been pretty straightforward. Since the birthday was on a Saturday, we would have enough time for a special breakfast of waffles. On the other hand, there would be no party with co-workers, since I seem to remember we celebrated birthdays at work only if they fell on a week day. The girls would have gone shopping with DrC sometime in the prior week and bought something with his/my money, wrapped it up, and put it on the table. While the family did house chores, I would have had the luxury of lazing about, perhaps even walking through the neighborhood to the local Starbucks for me-time. Then a nice dinner at home or more likely at a restaurant during which I would only tell the girls to quiet down 10 or 15 times. I know my mom and mother-in-law would have called, but otherwise, I don't think anyone else in the world would have even known.

A birthday while cruising the South Pacific is a far different event. First, my youngest made sure the salon was neat as a pin to clear the way for DrC to make my favorite Deansome Omelettes. These were especially tasty since we splurged and added bacon. Bacon is hard to find and incredibly expensive, so we haven't eaten much these past six months. Oh, and we found fresh tomatoes and GREEN PEPPERS so breakfast was just a hair short of astonishing. The girls made me cards... all the girls... even our guest Olivia. The cards were all very personal with messages and poetry and funky little stick drawings. We made TWO batches of coffee, and DrC used the last of the caramel sauce to make mine a caramel machiatto. The entire morning felt extravagant and self-indulgent.

A friend from another boat announced my birthday on the morning net. So all day long as we passed other boats there were calls of "Happy Birthday Toast!" "Hoy Don Quixote! Happy BDay!" People hailed us on the radio, waved at us in our dinghy, came up to me at dinner. Discovery made me a monohull cake (totally lopsided due to heeling as they changed anchorages). Rhythm put together the perfect cruiser birthday gift: a bottle of wine wrapped in brand new, unstained, incredibly clean dish towels! Folks made a point to swing by for a chat and a greeting. I felt completely surrounded in people who actually cared that it was my birthday and wanted to help make it a special day.

After spending the day being pampered by the family, we all piled into the dinghy to go to dinner on shore. Dinner was a Tongan feast on the beach. It included probably 15 clever ways to cook and season potatoes and/or taro as well as sweet and sour veg, cabbage salad, and a whole roast pig. The girls splurged and bought me a hair flower decoration, while DrC made a point of getting me the best little bits of pig skin and flank. Everywhere I turned were people I knew smiling, sharing food, and offering best birthday wishes. Even our Tongan hosts shared the inside information and said something with a berzillion vowels which was either directions to the loo or happy birthday. Several folks joined us after dinner on our boat for tea and monohull cake while I opened my gifts. My mom made me a skirt nearly 8 months ago and tucked it into our provisions so that I could open it and dance around in Tonga. DrC found me a lovely pink pearl necklace, Aeron had purchased a t-shirt dress in La Paz, while Mera had found a lovely dolphin necklace and carved wooden owl from my lovely wise owl-child. All the advance planning and thoughtfulness added to the gifts enormously.

Birthdays are different when you live in a community rather than a suburb. It's not about growing a year older or even just surviving another year. A birthday is a day that gives everyone permission to be a bit silly, a bit extravagant, and more than a bit generous with the limited 'things' we have on these tiny floating homes. Birthdays are a day for everyone to say in small ways and large, "You are a part of our lives, and we're pretty damn happy about that."

Well I am pretty damn happy about it, too. Thank you everyone. Best birthday EVER.


Singing Land Cruiser said...
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Singing Land Cruiser said...

God Bless your Mother for what would we have done without our Dear Toast! M&C

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