I have a confession to make. It’s my birthday. I was going to just keep sitting here, feeling sorry for myself, but then a friend wrote and told me to envision, for 17 seconds, what I’d like to have in life rather than dwell on what I don’t have.
Seventeen seconds is a long time when you have no idea what you’d like in life. Especially when “the future is cancelled,” as another friend said the other day.
I’d like to say I envisioned a birthday party held in my honour, with a cardamom-rose triple-layer cake and champagne and presents wrapped in shimmery paper with organza bows.
But, even during pre-lockdown times, I’ve never been much for celebrating my birthday. While a festive day for millions around the world who celebrate 4/20 as Weed Day, it was also Adolf Hitler’s birthday, and, 82-years later, the day my birth mother made the difficult decision to leave me in a hospital ward in Ottawa and head west.
Yes, I know, I was then “chosen” by my adoptive parents, who loved me and still love me to this day (even if they’ve forgotten it’s my birthday). I really can’t complain. But, there’s always that little girl inside who comes out once a year to pout. And today’s her day.
After 48 years on this earth, I’ve learned some coping mechanisms for the big day. Since I can’t go hide in the forest, or go for a drink with a sympathetic friend, my only option is to buy stuff. But where to buy stuff during a nation-wide lockdown, stuff that’s not from a supermarket shelf?
So, instead of waiting for the Spanish lunch hour of two o’clock for my bi-weekly shopping run, I decided to get dressed and head down the hill before noon for a birthday adventure. Little did I know a whole new world awaited.
Stores usually closed for lockdown were suddenly open. How did they know it was my birthday? Stationery shops, hardware stores, tienda de chuches (candy shops), a specialty food store.
I read the sign on each door, learning the cold hard truth. These were deemed essential services, and had been open this entire time. Only closed, of course, for lunch.
Hoping for something over-priced and exotic to cure my birthday blues, I wandered into the specialty food store only to discover shelves filled with canned mussels and dusty bottles of Mencia. I considered buying a 50-Euro (or was it 60?) Tupperware set, admiring the rose-coloured nesting bowls. Thankfully, the urge passed.
The stationery shop awaited. While mostly school supplies for children, I managed to find items that bridged the generational gap(s) – Post-it Notes, a “colouring therapy” book, a robin-egg blue notepad. At GADIS (because what trip to town would be complete without visiting GADIS?) I finally bought the champagne (technically cava, but doesn’t “champagne” have a much better ring to it?) and box of chocolates gift set I’d been admiring.
And now, it’s eight o’clock. Four more hours and I can say good-bye to Lockdown Birthday 2020. Thank you for celebrating with me, dear reader. When I uncork the champagne, it will be you I toast.
UPDATE: Since I posted this last night, readers have responded from all over the world wishing me a Happy Birthday. My neighbours Débora and Miguel (and our friend Ana by WhatsApp) serenaded me in my garden. They also gave me the perfect lockdown friend to keep me company, one that doesn’t meow for food or pee on my bed.
Thank you, everyone. You’ve warmed the very cockles of my heart.