I've always known what June 24th was. It was the day I got a plate of cake for dessert or a blob of people at my door. This year, I had no idea what to expect. Actually, I lied. I'm setting a bad example, but the truth is, I had some thoughts about how the day would go. I'd probably walk to class, have some lunch and come back to bed just to repeat the next day the same way. My accuracy rates have been plummeting ever since I've arrived at the East Coast. I've been wrong about so many things.
I started off this morning, taking long eaven breaths as I slipped into my clothes. The day would only be bad if I made it bad, I told myself. It doesn't have to be a special day, so long as it's not a bad one, I continued. These personal notes repeated in my head until I was set to go. I took a final breath before opening the door to the hallway.
The first surprise came. Shanti and Olivia were waiting for me at the end of the hall. It's okay if they don't remember, I told myself, but just as the thought crossed my mind, Olivia whipped out a card from behind. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. We've hardly known each other for a week and she gives me a gift; I was touched.
We went off to breakfast and then to class where the next surprise awaited. Once the clock struck 8:30, Mark was already in the front of the room. Through my note taking, I didn't notice that Mark was slowly inching toward the center of the room, where my seat was located. All of a sudden, the class bursts into song and everyone is singing Happy Birthday. At the end of the lyrics, Mark opens his hands to reveal a set of cards, enticing me to pick two. The rest of the class day was just amazing. Two groups who corresponded with the cards were instructed to approach the front of the room for a vocabulary game instead of the planned quiz. The following hours consisted of playing CHESS the Hotel Simulator, watching clips from Undercover Bosses and Hotel Impossible, and creating word documents.
I thought the vibrant morning and leisurely school day were the end of surprises, but my cohort proved me wrong. I awaited the 7:15 meeting with Chan-Law and the others, somewhat distressed that I couldn't accompany my dorm mates to College Town for bubble tea. As we waited for Stephen's return, Helen handed a yellow envelope to Chan-Law, which he promptly licked, sealed, and handed to me. After a series of lazy Stephen jokes and threats from Thao to twist some buttons, Stephen arrived and we took a group photo.
|A picture with the Cohort.|
I return to my dorm, exhausted but unable to wipe away the contagious grin on my lips, and whip out my phone, only to be greeted by countless messages from my friends and family back on the West Coast. Finally, my roommate enters the room with Elana and Daniella. A ghostly smirk transpired across her lips as she very sincerely gives a monologue about a present that she has been saving for a special occasion. The arm hiding behind her back rushes forward and she presents to me her prized possession—a can of sardines.
The room is filled with laughter as everyone comprehends Maddie’s amazing present. She
|Birthday presents this year (minus the sardines).|
urges me to open the can, claiming that it is traditional to eat seventeen pieces of sardines on a girl’s seventeenth birthday. After my gentle refusal to her generous offer and more laughter, some of the fish oil spilled on her clothes. My ingenious roommate, recalling a helpful item from the previous evening, brought out a frozen bag of laundry detergent and proceeded to clean the stain with the substance.
The giggles were spread all across the hall that evening.
Although there were no candles or crowds this year, I certainly got something better. I’ll always remember the cards, detergent, and the wonderful people who made my birthday what it is. Without a doubt, my seventeenth birthday will be one I'll never forget.