The last birthday I spent with my ex (R) was the also the first (and upto now the only) one in which I was pregnant. I did not know at the time that it was going to me the last time I would be growing a year older while still married to him. Yet it was a very special date - a date that cleaved my life in two. One before motherhood, the other after; one as a woman who believed in the posterity of marriage and the other who was ready to leave from it. It was also the day that I realized I did not love R any more and it was an irreversible state.
We were like two planets hurtling in opposite directions powered by that amazing force of repulsion generated when extreme love turns into its antithesis. If ever there was a day in my life when I had complete clarity of thought, that was the day. The mists has lifted and I was finally able to see my world for what it was. Every birthday since then, I have had J and each year she has continued to chip away at the pain of things that I have lost in life.
This year, J knocked at my door well before sunrise. She burst into the room with a rice paper lamp with a tea light candle shimmering inside and a bag full of hand-made gifts to wish me happy birthday. She had asked my parents who are visiting to wake her up early so she could surprise me and had barely slept at night from all the excitement of planning. I told J that she came in like a Florence Nightingale with a lamp in her hand.
She is too young to understand my choice of metaphor; the healing power of her presence in my life and her ability to salve old wounds, revive and renew me on my birthdays. Some day she will know why I said what I did. As for me, this birthday will remain imprinted in memory for ever - J in her green tee shirt, lamp in hand, bounding in with her cheery 'Happy Birthday, Mommy !' to give me a big hug and fill my world with happiness such as only she can conjure.