“Happy Birthday Lilian. You’re 21 now and free to do whatever you want to make you laugh the years away.” – Jeanette (Janetty)
In the months that I’ve been back here, the one thing I’ve always been extremely grateful for is the small circle of friends I have who have made the difficult times easier to bear. Apparently it’s a sign of introversion that I’ve never been one for massive congregations of friends, and have always been content with just a few — the count-on-one-hand few — whom I could be comfortable with and confide in. Unlike those who manage to maintain friendships with people they knew from as far back as primary school, I was never in one place long enough to make proper friends up until I went to Buffalo, which is probably why I’m terrible at the keeping-in-touch thing.
My mother, on the other hand, has three friends with whom she’s maintained her friendships since kindergarten. They spent a good twelve years all together in the same class in Convent Light Street, and managed to stay in touch throughout the years. Now they’re 51 years old and still meeting up for lunches and dinners and coffees in Bangsar — because one of them, strangely like Becca, lives in Damansara Heights and refuses to go anywhere else — and still being the loudest in the room.
Looking at the friends I have now, sometimes I wonder what it would be like twenty or thirty years down the road. I wonder if we will be like our mothers and have the luxury of making each other 21 cupcakes for our 51st birthdays, sitting down in one another’s living rooms and talking about the days we spent sitting at D’Haven and Starbucks and Coffee Bean, how silly we were in our twenties, how we made mountains out of molehills and how each sat with the other through her crises and crying jags over enormous amounts of food, coffee and alcohol. I do want that luxury, because all that will be left of the old days are the memories and the people who share them.
You are one of my biggest inspirations. You taught me to work hard for everything I wanted in life, to depend on myself, to not let anyone define who I am, to hold my head high when deep down I was falling apart. You taught me to laugh, to make others laugh, and to find a way to laugh when life had drained what little happiness I had left. You taught me to love, without conditions, without demands, without reasons, without questions, without bounds, without reserve, without self, to see all the good in the people that I care for and to believe in them and love them just the way they are. I’m sorry you couldn’t always have that love, that your life was more difficult than it deserved to be, and that I was too young to understand and for you to confide in me. I’m sorry you had to hide the fact that you were hurt simply because I was too young to understand, that you had to hold your own head up when what you yourself held dear was falling apart, and that I was too young to tell you that sometimes it’s all right to show that you’re hurt, and it’s all right to want someone to help you get through the hard times. I only hope that you realize that you’ve touched many people’s hearts, and whether or not you’ve allowed them to see your weaknesses, they love you just the same, the way they know you love them. Happy Birthday Mama.