Quarantining was not how expected to spend my 19th birthday. But surprisingly, I wouldn’t have asked for anything else.
None of us truly realized the impact the pandemic would have on our lives. For some, it became truly a reality when restaurants were limited to only take out, campuses started to close, or when masks became a necessity just to enter a grocery store. As for myself, I think the scope of the situation truly hit me when I realized my birthday would be celebrated a little differently this year.
In the past, I have never been one to make a big deal out of the annual celebration like some others. I was totally content with just going to school, seeing my friends, or going out to dinner with my family. So with the state of the world this year, I may have been disappointed by the turn of events, but I was still understanding enough to be thankful that all of my loved ones were safe. Honestly, what more could I ask for? My problems were nothing compared to what thousands of others were going through, so I was fine with letting this year’s party slip on by.
April 26 started off as a normal day. Waking up around 9 in the morning, I went downstairs, expecting to make some eggs or yogurt for breakfast as I always do. Imagine my surprise when I come into the kitchen and find fresh flowers and balloons on the kitchen table, surrounded by fresh pancakes and omelets from one of my favorite local cafes (and a cold brew from Starbucks, a rare indulgence for this coffee lover nowadays). Somehow my mom had sneaked out while I was sleeping to set it up for me, but that wasn’t the last of all the surprises.
Like I said earlier, I was not trying to make a fuss with the fact that I was turning nineteen. I don’t even remember telling anyone that it was coming up, except maybe in a passing conversation a month before. Yet all day, I was getting phone and facetime calls from my family members, texts and Instagram posts from both my high school and college friends. My best friend even drove over to my house, leaving roses and a card on my porch, even though I would never have asked that of her, and right next to it, a present all the way from my roommate in Seattle. People I had not talked to in months, and people I was thousands of miles away from, all making me feel so special and loved even if we could not be together.
My family tried so hard to make my birthday amazing despite the circumstances we were in. My brother, who I have not been able to see much lately, even came over later in the day, where we were able to share stories, laugh at the dogs playing around, and just reflect on the good times. We even went rollerblading for a little while; both of us may be adults now, but hey, we are still kids at heart. Complete that with Mexican food and a butter cake for dessert (if anyone knows me, the true key to my heart), and you have got a pretty great day. And somehow, it got even more special.
As the night was closing down, I went for a walk with my dad around our neighborhood, taking our dog for the usual routine. We passed over the hill, a beautiful sunset lowering on the mountainside. A perfect moment, as my mom fondly calls them. But when we walked back to the house, I saw my mom hovering around my computer screen, lights dark in the room. When I came up behind her, all my family members, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, were on the screen. They started singing happy birthday to me through a zoom call, blowing out the virtual candles to end my special surprise.
A few months ago, I never imagined I would be celebrating my nineteenth birthday back in California, quarantined in my house with my mom, dad, and my dog. I already knew that spending time with my loved ones is all I really want to do on m birthday, but this April 26, I learned something far more important. My birthday felt special – not because of one big event, but because of a combination of small, meaningful things I experienced throughout the day.
Even socially distant, I have never felt surrounded by so much love. And when life returns to normal, and by then hopefully my twentieth birthday can be celebrated in person, it will make me appreciate my time with my friends and family so much more, and all of the little things that say how much you love them. But until then, if you personally know someone who is celebrating their birthday in isolation right now, reach out to them, you have no idea how special it will make them feel. Trust me on this one.
I will never forget the joys that came from my nineteenth birthday, despite not looking at all how I originally imagined it. If I can say one thing, quaranineteen was definitely was one to remember.