This weekend is my birthday, and for the first time in my life, it doesn’t signify anything, except the normal I’m getting older. Ok, perhaps, it’s not the first time, but it is definitely the first time I FEEL like it’s just another day. But instead of it being all about me, my birthday made me think about how ME came to be. I’ll leave the stork part out and focus instead on the major influences that have propelled me to this present moment, on the precipice of another birthday. And the majorist of major influences is my family.
The best way to describe my family is as a matriarchy. The women of my family – my mom, her five sisters, my recently passed grandmother, my sister and of course the girl-kids – are all very opinionated, and will rarely back down from any challenge. When I was a little girl, one of my most vivid memories was of my grandmother teaching me how to swim the side stroke. Despite the fact that I took lessons twice a week, she was insistent I learned the stroke before it was taught in class, so I could work to perfect it in class. She pushed me to always challenge myself and that only my determination and proactive attitude would get me ahead in life. We would sit together and do crosswords for fun, she said that while playing with dolls had its place, my mind would always be front and center, throughout my life. From my grandmother, I learned about the importance of family, not because she insisted that it was important, but because we all came together around her.
With the rest my female family members, education was the most important. I gained a deep admiration for knowledge and determination, since that was how my aunts expected me to be. Instead of feeling stifled, I learned that an education opened doors. My aunts were adamant I gain a higher education, at a minimum a bachelor’s degree. Follow your dreams, they said, but never settle, get your degree and then do something with it! They urged me never to take a back seat and that my ability to move ahead should never come at the expense of others. My mom and aunts hold each other up, which to me is the best kind of community, a community that supports, and is strengthened by the other. To sum it up so far: mental prowess/education + community solidarity = me. That just leaves the other huge part of me. And I’m not talking about my bootylishous bod. No, that’s a given. What I’m talking about is my argumentativeness. A gift from my sister. What is a question without a rebuttal? A slick remark without a sarcastic rejoinder? A joke without a witty retort? You get my drift. A birthday is a cause for celebration, not only for yourself, but also in how you became that way. Nature and nurture with a bit of chance mixed in. And celebrating family, at least for me, is a huge part of my birthday. What are your thoughts about birthdays? Do you think of them as more than just a day on the calendar and how so?