I tried to speak
but thought never mind
Rejection stings less
when you don’t even try
Two is company
and one is a black hole
We do not thrive
alone in the cold
We leave habitats
that do not provide
I’m close to starvation
and I need to survive
Wolf is turning one on December 27 this year. Every time people find out his birth date, they smile and comment how unlucky he is, because he’ll get only one gift for his birthday and Christmas. I would always smile along, but deep inside, I’d feel bad for my baby. It’s not his fault that his parents lacked foresight when they decided to do away with contraception! Haha.
I imagined what his birthday would be like every year, squeezed in amid all the Christmas festivities, like a little footnote to the grandness of the Yuletide season. I imagined him at seven, wanting a big party like all his classmates, while I would fret over how to break it to him that his friends would be out of town on his special day. I imagined him opening his joint birthday and Christmas presents alongside his cousins, his face falling because even if it were his birthday, all the other kids had lots of presents too.
We originally did not plan on celebrating his first birthday with a party. We were going to have a simple family vacation a stone’s throw away from the metro, just the three of us. But then I realized, this year might be the first and last chance for us to plan a birthday party for him. I don’t want to have a huge party every year, because it’s just not practical. After the first birthday, the next big birthday is the seventh, but a party on Wolf’s seventh may not be in the cards. As I mentioned above, I imagined the heartbreak he’d feel at not being able to have his friends at the party, thus making the possibility of a seventh birthday bash very slim. As for the birthdays that follow, people unfortunately tend to become even busier as they get older. His chances of partying on his birthday seem quite bleak indeed.
And so we decided that we should have a party for his first birthday, at the very least. As I began inviting people, sure enough, several regretfully told me that they’d be out of town. This early in Wolf’s life, it’s no big deal. He’s not yet aware. But later on, he will be. And that’s why we’re jumping at the chance to celebrate now that he’s still too little to feel rejected.
When he’s much older and more emotionally mature, he will laugh along with his friends when they joke about the inconvenience of his birthday. He will gladly accept that the Christmas spread will inevitably double as his birthday feast. Perhaps he will even jovially invite everyone to partake of the “birthday treat” he prepared. But as a child, he will not be able to help himself from feeling the sting of sharing the gift-opening spotlight with everyone else.
Casey and I will try our best to help Wolf still feel special on his birthday by making it distinct from Christmas, especially when it comes to opening gifts. Wolf will have two piles of gifts to unwrap — his Christmas gifts and his birthday gifts. We have pledged to each other that we will always make an effort to get Wolf two gifts every year. I think that no matter how nice the gift is, reading “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!” on one card will make any kid feel down. I would like to appeal to our immediate family and closest friends to try and do the same. If you will get Wolf a Christmas gift, please get him a birthday gift as well. Getting two gifts doesn’t mean spending more. Wolf is a very happy, easy-to-please child who busies himself with the simplest of items. Don’t trouble yourselves with getting fancy toys or gadgets. The gifts don’t need to be extraordinary. They don’t need to be expensive. They just need, ideally, to be two.
I don’t expect that you will get to read this. But I am writing this for myself. You know how my thoughts need to get written down so I can make sense of them, and then preserved, so I can learn from them.
I saw pictures of your wedding posted by a common friend. The pictures made me think two things simultaneously, one quite shallow, and the other worth pondering:
- If I were still your best friend, I would have advised against the size of your hair accessory. You would have taken my advice.
- I would have been happy to be there, but I’m just as happy not being there.
The second thought warrants elaboration. I have let most among our common circles assume that the reason we stopped being friends was my fault entirely. I guess that could be argued, because although it was you who burned bridges, from the moment I made the decision to begin dating your crush, I knew that you would interpret my actions as a betrayal you could not overlook. Never mind that he never reciprocated your feelings, and, more importantly, that you yourself were seeing someone else at the time (consequently, your husband now). That circumstance should have made our friendship survive my “betrayal.” It’s like how in Riverdale, when Veronica and Archie told Betty that they were dating, Betty was totally cool with it, because she was with Jughead.
Alas, you chose not to remain friends. I believe that at the time, although you were very happy with your boyfriend, a part of you still clung to the possibility of ending up with “Archie.” Why else would our relationship have affected you so deeply? As long as he remained available, you were not ready to give your heart fully to anyone. But you would have been such a bad match. Opposites, much like the two of us.
I watched you harbor your feelings for so long, and I always knew as much as he did that you ending up with him would have spelled disaster. I watched you turn resentful as your feelings remained unreciprocated.
Then one day, you asked me out to lunch, and I knew that day was different. I remember how you brought me to a fancy restaurant that I hadn’t tried before. You could hardly contain your smile, and as soon as we had placed our orders, you broke into a full grin and said, “I met someone nice.” I could tell he was different from the previous guys you dated. I detected no trace of settling for second best, no hint of a subconscious desire to be distracted from the one you couldn’t have. It was apparent from the beginning that you were really into this guy. Even then, I could imagine you one day marrying him.
It’s funny how at first, we may think that our story has taken a turn for the worst, only to realize later on that the conflict was needed to ensure our happy ending. I remember how as schoolgirls, we would spend hours after class, conjuring up our own fantasies, exploring all the what ifs.
Well here’s the biggest “what if” of our lives. What if I had not begun dating Archie? Would you have ended up married to the love of your life? Or would you have clung to the hope of feelings finally reciprocated? Would you have spent more years asking “what if?” We will never know now. But it was a solid possibility. After all, it’s the “what ifs” that are difficult to forget. Had I not dated Archie, had there been a tiny shred of hope that you could end up together, you may have missed your chance to experience love with no skeletons.
I dashed all hope that we would remain friends. It was a sad ending to a truly beautiful friendship. But inadvertently, I also cleared the rubble from the path leading to something even more beautiful–your ultimate happiness. If we were still friends, I would have been at your wedding, maybe telling all the guests about how giddy you were when you told me you had met such a great guy. But if we were still friends, you might not have had that special day at all. Who knows? It’s not a cookie cutter world. So I am happy I was not at your wedding. You deserved that day of pure, boundless joy.
I wish you all the best.
All the love of a stranger,