Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Birthdays on the go

It was the 1st  September 1972.
Dark, gray, cloudy skies. Imminent rain.
My Dad was about to head to work when my Mom announced that perhaps they should be heading to the delivery room instead. The rest of my parents memories are hard to reconcile. 
I was not a planned baby. After my Mom's problematic first pregnancy, they decided on having one child only. However, pregnant already, Mom convinced Dad that a second child might be a good idea - to keep company to the first one (as she likes to joke). My Dad hoped for a boy. Once I was born,  Mom was  very disappointed that I was not a boy. My Dad said it's too late.  Neither of them remembers what time I was born, but that I wasn't a very pretty baby. Honesty appreciated!  And so my life begins…

Most probably the first picture of me - I'm the crying baby, of course! 

Happy cyclist :) … Still am! 

My first picture taken in a photo-studio (I'm on the left) 

Birthdays were not celebrated much in my family. I never asked why. Everyone would wish me a 'Happy birthday!' , my grandparents would give me some extra pocket money, and that was all. When I found out that other kids have parties, I asked for one too, and for my 15th birthday I had my first Birthday Party at home. I invited 4 friends and had set a buffet table on the side. My parents thought it was appropriate to come and sit with us. My guests were shy and didn't eat anything. It was the worst and most boring party ever!!!
I decided not to have birthdays parties anymore, but to travel on my birthdays instead!!!

I'd simply go to the city and stroll the streets, or go to another city for a weekend.  I just liked changing the scenery and being on my own.  While in college, I'd travel to the Black Sea for a day on the beach - overnight train would get me to Varna at 6am, I'd watch the sunrise, spend the day sunbathing and wandering around the city, and in the evening I would take the night train back home.  

I stopped counting my birthdays at about 28. I like to joke that I'm a forever-28 :-) 
I didn't stop counting because the number got too high - life got too busy and there were more pressing things at hand, but to count the years. Nevertheless, I always made it a priority to observe my birthday - to celebrate life and every year of it!  In recent years the focus shifted to celebrating not the birthday itself, but all the wonderful people I meet, all the great experiences I have, and how lucky I have been in general!

Ironically, at about the time I stopped counting the years, digital cameras took over recording them for me, and here is what they have to say…  

2001 / Tucson, AZ - day trip to Old Tucson to hang out with the Bad Boys, and dinner with Laura

 2002 / Everett, WA -  weekend camping in the Cascades, blowing a 'birthday candle'

 2003 / Everett, WA - Hiking Mt. Rainier National Park 

 2004 / Everett, WA - Day trip to Edmonds beach

 2005 / Urbana, IL - A week at Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain - a moment after that shot was taken, a wave splashed my rear :)

 2006 / Madison, WI - My first trip to Stockholm, Swededn - fell in love with Scandinavia!

 2007 / Madison, WI - A weekend trip to Washington State to celebrate with old friends

 2008 / Reading, UK - Sailing weekend in The Netherlands

 2009 / Reading, UK - Long weekend in Ireland (Aran Islands and Dublin)

2010 / Utrecht, NL - By that time I had already learned how to throw amazing parties for friends, so I hosted one,  yet I still squeezed in a quick trip to Amsterdam ;-)

 2011 / Utrecht, NL - An amazing, last minute, 24 hour trip to Paris with a lover  ;-)

 2012 / Melbourne, Australia  - A weekend in Las Vegas for the big 40 !!!

   2013 / Melbourne, Australia  - Dinner with friends in Fitzroy after a day at St.Kilda's beach

2014 / Washington, DC … Heading to New York City in 5 days :) Photo to follow…

And here it is… 1 Sept 2014 - the Empire State Building :)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Morning promises

In my school days, I loved waking up early. Around 6 in the morning I would get to the city's square and just sit there - in the still, sleepy atmosphere, with only the fountain's splashing water sound reminding me that life has not stopped forever. Occasionally, a street sweeper would pass by, or early worker's footsteps would make me turn my head and smile to them, and then an utter calmness would take over again. There was something magical about knowing that most everyone's asleep; it felt peaceful and safe.

Other days I'd head to the main train station and I'd watch the opposite - lots and lots of people getting on and off the trains, rushing, heading to or coming from who knows where, their faces sort of caught in between asleep and awake. Unaware of my gentle intrusion, their confusion makes me smile. Newspaper stands would be already open and their business was at their peak. After making up what the dreams and the daily chores of some of the people might be, I'd giggle at my own silliness and head to school with a smile.

These days are long gone…

Lately I don't get up early often. But when I get a chance to stay with my best (and early-bird) friend, I find myself awake at 6 am and somehow, that longing to go out on the streets and simply watch the world in its most peaceful state, to enjoy the promise of the dawn of a new day...it comes back to me and overwhelms me with hope. I feel like a fisherman, who leaves a warm, comfortable bed, takes a cup of hot coffee, and replaces the safety of home with the hope that on his boat, out in the sea, it will be a good day for fishing, early hour and cold weather irrelevant.

Perhaps we are all fishermen, waking up every morning to the promise of another day.