I have no idea what I did for my fifth birthday.
Before the age of six, my family and I lived in the Big Apple, a city so grand that it’s bright lights and loud noises swallow up time as if it were bagged cotton candy at the Ringling Brother’s circus. There are bits and pieces of memory that remain clinging to my small fingers as I attempt to remember, however, it is all in vain for these remnants appear to have minds of their own, choosing when and how to show themselves as I chase them through rabbit holes and into the great beyond.
My tenth birthday was spent at a bowling alley in Melbourne, Florida, the polar opposite of New York City where people smile kindly at you and the sun tans your cheeks even when it’s overcast. Long days are spent at the beach until entire summers blur into one another, a merged aroma of sunscreen and salt air, the screeching of seagulls ringing for days to come. On days like this, my younger self wondered at the phenomenon that occurs when one retires after a long day spent in the ocean. As your head hits the pillow, your brain has not yet caught up and one feels as if they might still be floating on the Atlantic.
I get carried away remembering these days of naive innocence.
My friends and I ate pizza and drank sodas by the gallon, competing against one another until the sugar took effect and we became silly, tossing balls backwards and overhand, earning scowls from our elders and receiving worried exclamations from my mother who was sure that we would soon be thrown out, never allowed to return again.
I don’t remember much that happened before I began to see the world and my life for what it was. I just remember that I was happy. Whenever I hear older people say that ignorance is bliss, I go somewhere deep inside of myself, realizing how true this is.
My fifteenth birthday took place in the same town during a time of darkness that even the strong Florida sun could not illuminate. My world had been turned upside down and my friends and mother looked at me constantly, studying my face to make sure that all was well. I think they half expected me to fall apart or go insane, and in some way I suppose I did although they never knew it.
We had a cookout at a beautiful park that harbored the river, eating barbecue and playing sports such as tennis, football and basketball. It was a hot day and we all enjoyed holding cold cans of soda up to our sweaty foreheads, realizing that the drinks’ perspiration were much more refreshing than our own. Even this birthday I do not accurately recollect, other than recalling the feeling that I was a captain on some grand ship trying to reassure my crew that all was well as I frantically scooped water with a small bucket back into the ocean, our ship sinking lower and lower, as some irreparable damage already determined our demise. I think that the sunshine state highlighted the gloom that consumed this period of my life, as the sun shone much too bright, my party guests laughed much too loud, and everything appeared untruthful. It’s as if the planet picked up my cue in deception and worked with me to maintain a steady flow of calm composure.
My twentieth birthday has not yet come. I cannot remember most of the time leading up to this transition into adulthood, and yet it remains upon me. I am in college and the world is brighter. I am no longer an innocent, nor do I still dwell in darkness. A new state brought with it a new hope. A hope that radiates in the darkest of times, when I see how cruel the world is as well as a hope that rests and rejoices when I am reminded of how beautiful everything has the potential to be.
This world is so beautifully tragic, and although more birthdays are not promised, I am confident that they will come.