Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 26, 2004
Happy birthday and thanks Mum, Dad
My 33rd birthday was the strangest one I ever had, although I must admit others have had more bizarre birthdays than mine.
There was no party. Stuck in my bedroom, I was hugging my pillow and burrowing under my blankets. Flu held me hostage. Potential birthday wishers were barred lest they catch the virus.
I had expected it to be different from my other birthdays because I already conditioned myself I would be on a retreat that day. Indeed, I had to retreat from the crowd. Charity towards others begged for it while my body desperately needed to be in bed.
What I did not miss during this special day was to talk to my mother.
She told me she made some spaghetti for me and some pancit - a type of Philippine noodles - a must-have when celebrating birthdays. Having pancit during birthdays is some kind of a Philippine tradition to wish for a longer life for the birthday celebrator. Even when I am far away from my family, they never fail to celebrate my birthday. So I couldn't really say that I didn't have a party. I had one, but the venue was somewhere down in the southern Pacific Ocean.
What I had planned to do was a simple thing. But even that failed because I was not feeling well. I planned to thank my mom and dad. Thank my mom and dad?
Yes. Have you ever thanked your mom and dad for having given birth to you? I'm sure some people have done that. It is something that we do not ordinarily do because the focus of the celebration customarily is the one celebrating the birthday.
As a young boy I didn't think a birthday celebration was complete without the traditional blowing of candles on a cake. That's all I wanted. I wanted to blow the candles of my own cake. But because my parents were poor, they couldn't afford to buy me a cake. What my parents made sure was I had new clothes to wear for that special day and we had a special meal.
When you come to think of it, a lot of traditions and practices around celebrating birthdays have room for making them more meaningful and more Christian.
Our birthdays are our special days, but they are not just about us. I am not saying however, that we have been trained to view our birthdays as simply about us. I'm sure people do think about others on their birthdays.
Yes we do thank God for the life given to us. But I strongly believe it is also meaningful to thank our parents for bringing us into this world. We can celebrate our birth while we also celebrate their being parents.
There's a whole bunch of reasons why we should do that.
One, if our parents decided otherwise, we wouldn't be here. Two, being grateful is not a bad attitude. Three, it is one profound experience where all of us are participants but not all of us have the same role. Four, I believe it is one of the few intimate moments we share with another person: our mothers. Five, it is good to remember that our mothers' lives were in real danger when they gave birth to us. Six, it was probably one of the most remarkable moments for our fathers - especially if you're a first-born.
I'm sure you can come up with more reasons.
For nine months, we were in our mothers' womb. What could be more intimate than being inside somebody else's body and relying on this person for our sustenance and growth? The protective womb of our mothers shielded us from vulnerability. We were secure.
And because of this, we are connected to our mothers in ways that we would never connect with another person.
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