The other day I went to a friend’s son’s birthday celebration. It was fun. But before that, my friend seemed to hesitate to invite me, not because she didn’t want to invite me, but because she was worried that it would be inconsiderate or inappropriate for me.
She asked, “Do you celebrate birthdays?”
I was confused. I mean, I didn’t know why she asked that, right?
So, I said, “Well, not really. I don’t really celebrate my birthday. Why?”
She said, “Oh, I’m going to celebrate my son’s birthday, but I’m worried if your religion does not allow that. That’s why I asked.”
I get it. Maybe she was wondering if I didn’t go to birthday celebrations for religious reasons. But, I appreciate it that she was so considerate. Not many people cared about your belief, right? She didn’t want to put me in an uncomfortable situation in which if she invited me I would be in dilemma between going or not for religious reasons. Thus, I told her that I did go to friends’ birthday celebrations. I then said, “Well, some Muslims do not celebrate birthdays, they are even against the birthday celebration of the great Prophet (PBUH) but I think many Muslims are cool with it. I do go to birthday celebrations. I don’t really celebrate my birthday not for religious reasons but more because I’m not used to it. We don’t have that culture in my family maybe because we were poor back then.”
She seemed happy with my answer and said, “Then you are invited. It’s this Monday at 5.30pm at my place.” Thus, I asked for her address to make sure that I could go.
Well, if there is anything I am concerned about getting any invitations in the States, they would be time and place. Time, because I pray five times a day (At dawn, Dhuhur, Ashar, Maghrib, and Isya’), and here the time changes; (and there’s hardly any mosque) and so I want to make sure I can find time to pray before or after the event; i.e. I don’t want to miss any prayers. And I don’t feel comfortable praying in somebody else’s place because I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. It might be awkward if I suddenly leave the party and desert myself to pray. I don’t want to cause such inconvenience. It’s kinda complicated. I mean, if I told them so, I’m sure they will understand, but it’s just me, I don’t feel okay with it. Thus, I guess I’m ok with the time since that didn’t really crash my praying schedule. I thought that I could go after praying Ashar at home and go back before Isya’ so I can pray Maghrib at home. Like, I told myself that I didn’t have to stay until the end. Then place, because I don’t have a car and so I rely a lot on public transportation; besides, using Uber/Lyft will be too expensive for me. I’ve gotta save, remember? So I’m happy because after I browsed, I found that there was a bus going to her place so I didn’t have to worry about going there and returning home. (Though later my friend actually said that she could take me home, but I don’t want to trouble her because I’m sure she would need to clean up after the party).
My next worry: a birthday present. Well, I cannot go empty-handed, right? I mean, she didn’t ask me to bring a gift; still, I won’t feel okay coming without a present for the birthday boy. That would be not nice; I won’t like it. But then, I’m not a super rich girl who can buy anything, mindless of the price or such, so this stressed me out. Like, I want to give something, but sometimes I’m scared that what I give would be too cheap or worthless for them but then I couldn’t afford more expensive stuff either. This is the part that I don’t like about getting invited to such events. Because we don’t really do it in my family so I don’t know what would be appropriate for such gifts. Sigh. but, well, I consulted a friend about this. She said that I didn’t have to worry about presents because it’s my presence that matters. I knew, still… but, well, finally I decided to buy something that might be useful. I mean, it’s not a fancy stuff, but I guess as long as they can make use of it, then it’s ok ^^ I know I was complicating things myself. But I need to do it to make me myself feel better. Otherwise, I’d feel bad and guilty. That’s not nice.
On the D-day, I had already known what bus I should take, where I should get on, and where I should get off. I wasn’t really worried about such stuff because I have my internet data/quota. Haha As long as I have my phone with me, I’ll be fine 😀 Thanks, technology! But alas, I missed the bus that I planned to take and thus should wait for the next bus. I knew I’d be late and thus I told her about it. But when I arrived, the party wasn’t really started yet. It was a small and simple (yet MEANINGFUL!) birthday party. My friend told me that some friends said they would come but maybe late and some others apologized that they couldn’t come and she seemed chill with it. That’s so cool of her. Maybe I’m the one who took things too seriously and too personally. One of the reasons I came was that because I didn’t want to disappoint her. I thought that maybe if I didn’t come, she’d be disheartened, and I wouldn’t like that. (Gosh, am I too nice? Haha) I mean, if I didn’t think of it, I’d rather not go since it’d be more convenient for me to pray at home. But I did go any way because apparently many friends couldn’t make it, so I was happy that I became a part in this boy’s important time of his life. I mean, it’s his birthday! He would want people to cheer him! 🙂 (But then this taught me something. I learned that I don’t have to feel bad for refusing an invitation next time because people will/should understand).
Hence, there was only me, my friend and her husband, the birthday boy, my friend’s friend and her family (it’s 5 of them, husband and wife, 1 teenage child, 1 younger kid, and 1 toddler), and later came another friend from our department with her son, so it was 11 people in total. We talked before we began the ‘party’. My friend and her husband have prepared some food and drink for us. (I love free food so I was happy. haha). The kids played with balloons, ate cookies, and played with some Spiderman-themed stuff like mask and toy guns (Gosh, I was freaking out when trying to search for the words as I was writing this in a library especially after the mass shooting in Florida the other day, I don’t want people to see me look for something using the keyword ‘gun’ or ‘pistol’, right? And I’m Muslim, too; I don’t want them to think that I’m a terrorist because I’m not. Gosh. This thing happening in the US is driving me crazy!). But anyway, the kids were having fun. It was so joyful to see them play. I’m always amazed at kids’ ability to always find some fun in such situations. For me at this age, it can get awkward sometimes. Yes we talk, I smile, but sometimes there is the silence and it’s killing me, but maybe that’s because I’m so mindful of my time, being too observant, or maybe simply because I’m just no fun 🙁
But anyway, we played two games. We were divided into two big groups/teams. The first game asked us to write/make a decoration of the name of the birthday boy using anything we have and he would choose which one he likes the best. The team whose name decoration got chosen won. My team won. Haha And we got some presents. The next game wanted us to provide several things that my friend has listed before. It’s something common like coin, earring, socks, shoelace, etc. My friend made sure that we would have it with us. Thus, the team who could complete the quest first won. We lost; we didn’t have the coin 😀 Then we sang the birthday song for the boy; he seemed so happy; I’m glad that I came 🙂 And before we left, my friend gave each of us a present. I didn’t expect that. I mean, she has provided food and some fun for us, but she went to such a great extent to appreciate our presence in her son’s birthday. It’s so kind of her, and I kinda feel bad, because, well, what she has given me probably cost more than what I bought for her son’s present. So I was sad. But I hope that she doesn’t mind.
But anyway, I didn’t regret coming to the birthday celebration. It was fun and I get to experience another culture. My friend was from a country in Latin America (I cannot mention the name of the exact country for confidentiality and security reason :p) Thus, I get to know how she celebrates birthdays there. Well, I know I cannot generalize it to other people from the same country because it could be different. But, well, it’s something new to me, especially with the present that she gave me. And later she texted me saying thank you that I came because it made her son happy. Well, it’s my pleasure of course! 🙂
PS: Her husband, when offering me some drink, asked if I would love to have some wine. Haha I knew they were joking 😀 I mean, as a Muslim I don’t drink alcohol ^^ I drive my life 24/7. No Driving Under Influence, right? :p