My happiest childhood memory is probably of my birthdays. I used to tick off days in the calendar even a few months earlier in anticipation. I remember how preparations used to start days in advance. Dad used to buy truckloads of goodies to give away at school, my regular set of uncles, aunts and cousins, and my best friends would be invited. A menu would be drawn up, modified, rewritten, finalized. I could hardly use to sleep the night before, probably drifting off just as dawn would break over the magical day. I would move around the day, dazed, happy, and feeling like a princess. I would come back home from school to be greeted by the best perfume in the world – my mother’s baking. Then there would be laughter and cake and chocolates and candles, wishes and yummy food, and games, and so much fun that I used to feel I would burst with happiness.
Surprisingly, my feelings for my birthdays never really went away, only maybe a little modified. Till the year I got married, my best friends would invariably turn up, we had long back stopped inviting each other. There would be the same heartbreaking smell of baking, maybe pizza had replaced the pulao and chicken, and the crayons had been replaced by carefully wrapped up jewelry and cosmetics, but the excitement was as real as it was for the 4 year old me.
I moved to a city away from home after I got married, and the rush of freedom and excitement of a new life felt great – but only till it was my birthday time. Hubby drew up grand plans for D-Day – movie, dinner, shopping. I smiled, thanked him and was genuinely happy that he remembered how special birthdays were for me. But that stubborn little girl living inside me who never really left kept nudging me, trying to say something. I kept ignoring her, but I sort of knew what she wanted.
The day before my birthday, I came back from work to a home brimming with the smell of baking. I thought I was dreaming. But I couldn’t miss that smell anywhere in the world. My parents had flown down for my birthday! And wonder of wonder of wonders, so had my two best friends. I was stunned, overwhelmed, and moved to tears. They had planned everything with my hubby, even as he pretended to make those stupid (sorry!) movie-dinner plans. As I blew the candles at midnight, I closed my eyes and thanked God that these special people in my life had listened to their hearts and invested their time and money in making me feel like a princess again.