I am a goofball. No, really. This is Christmas 2008 in San Juan, Puerto Rico and I was the only one this, ahem, festive.
I LOVE holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, New Year’s, the 4th of July…these are all opportunities for me to get silly, get creative, and get really, really into it! I get excited, giddy like a child, and I can’t stop smiling.
I plan out menus for Thanksgiving and crave the stove-top stuffing and mashed potatoes more myself than anyone I know. When Zahara’s father was based in South Bend, Indiana, the company had us staying in a hotel and I invited another pilot/our best friend to dinner. I had a mini-fridge, microwave, and electric griddle to work with and no turkey to be found. But I created a dinner complete with mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, fish and veggies and we were all sort of surprised at how much I was able to do with so little.
Holiday music and movies annoy some people but I just can’t get enough! I showed Zahara some old classic holiday cartoons that I memorized when I was young. My sisters groaned and laughed at me and left the room, but I was still enthralled. Even though I’m Muslim and we don’t actually celebrate Christmas, I give others gifts, wear Santa hats, sing along to the jingles at the top of my lungs in the car and fall asleep to them at night (we believe in Jesus Christ as a prophet, not the son of God.)
And speaking of giving gifts, I am that woman who doesn’t just go gift-shopping to get it over with, but actually enjoys it. I love finding that little something that you will love. I love your face when you open it and I love that I could make you happy. That’s why I buy things year-round for birthdays and holidays, because as soon as I see the thing it instantly makes me think of someone and I have to get it for them. I end up having more gifts to store than I have room to store them, but it makes me smile every time I look at them and imagine that moment when someone I care about will light up upon opening them. I used to visit New York with an extra suitcase full of presents for the events we weren’t at while moving around for my ex’s career.
I’ve already mentioned my philosophy on New Year’s Eve and how my marriage started falling apart around my first time celebrating it with Zahara. But look at me there, all dressed up and holding my daughter, big smile on my face and another festive item on my head.
While other girls may worry about their hair or makeup or who they’d be kissing at midnight, I hadn’t even looked in a mirror since getting ready hours earlier and I was HAPPY. My baby had me exhausted with new mommy duties and her father was stressing me out, but I was happy, and hopeful. That’s the thing about December 31st. It makes me hope. And I love that. I love to dream, to plan, to examine my life and think of ways to improve it that are reachable, doable. I love that at that moment, I held my little girl close and smiled.
And then there’s Halloween. Oh God, do I LOVE Halloween!
I bought a lot of costumes as a child, but as I got older I started trying to create something from what I already have. I’ve been all kinds of cat, witch, angel, vampire, and on and on. I wore a glow in the dark, lime green tee with the word BOO across my chest when I was very, very pregnant. (I wanted an orange tee so I could be a pumpkin but I couldn’t find one that fit.)
I was an angel for Zahara’s 1st Halloween, and she was a tiger with a Halloween onesie underneath that had the orange tutu attached that you see here. I know one day she’ll probably think my choice of onesies was odd, but hopefully she’ll also think it’s quirky and that her mommy is a bit of a Halloween addict. I just couldn’t pass up the chance to put her in it even though it had nothing to do with the tiger costume she wore to go out (also too adorable not to buy.)
I love chocolate and trick-or-treating, but I save my candy and eat some all year long. I just can’t let the fun end too soon!
This year I was a princess and I wore my prom dress. Yes, my high school prom dress. I actually fit into the thing which made Halloween extra special this time knowing I’m closer to my body goals. (Go ahead and do a cheer or I’ll wait for a standing ovation….that getting fit stuff is hard!)
Finally there’s BIRTHDAYS!!! My family has this joke that I am the only person who can somehow make my birthday last all month. But that’s because I still feel the way people usually stop feeling as a kid. That this is MY time and I deserve to really have some fun. I pamper myself, a manicure or an overdue haircut for example. Not ON my birthday, but close to it so I can feel special on that day. I go to lunch with my best friends, including my sisters, and since not all of my circles are friends with each other, that’s more events for me! Even if you give me a handmade card, I’m bursting to open anything you get me. And since I start counting down to March 3rd around Valentine’s Day, my birthday goes on for quite a while. It’s like New Year’s, a time for self-examination and hope and excitement.
But as much as I enjoy my birthday, my daughter’s has been something I excel at! Her 1st was a huge event like Pakistani/Indian ones usually are, with my whole extended family there.
I planned. I visited store after store getting princess-themed decorations. I made centerpieces out of clear plastic plates I decorated with fairy princess and flower stickers and on top of which I set balloons with all kinds of pink chocolates surrounding the balloon weight. The kids ate that candy all night. (And so did I!) I also made my own loot bags filled with goodies and toys that I searched for with the intention of getting things I would have enjoyed receiving myself if I was one of the children at the party.
I ordered this banner and designed it choosing 2 cute pictures of Zahara. Beautiful images of her right after she was born and right before this 1st birthday. Her funny and inquisitive personality was already showing and I wanted to create something I could show her one day so she’d see what a character she already was at such a young age.
And I danced. I danced with Zahara, and when she took a nap I danced with anyone who wanted. I got the whole family on their feet, including some who never dance. My joy was infectious.
Her 2nd birthday was downscaled a ton obviously, but not in fun or creativity. It was a Chuck-e-cheese’s celebration because Zahara has decided that this is currently one of her most favorite places. I still ordered a cake from my favorite local bakery like the previous year, only smaller. I still found ways to make the day, the decorations, and the activities specific to what Zahara likes, what other kids would enjoy, and what I myself would appreciate. Child-centric, quirky, obsessively planned out loot bags? Check. Singing happy birthday balloon weight? Check. Happy mommy and baby? CHECK.
And that’s the thing. While my first year as a mom was filled with all of these events, holidays and birthdays that I’ve ALWAYS fully enjoyed, it was also a time of great personal heartbreak. I was devastated. After dancing at Zahara’s first birthday I had to duck into the bathroom to sob for a couple of minutes because even with all the happy smiles around me, members of my family had tears in their eyes feeling sorry for me and Zahara for her father’s betrayal. My first birthday without him he didn’t even call or text although he was still claiming to want to be with me again and atone for his “mistake” as he called it. And that lack of care on his part was even more hurtful than his original cheating. The 1st everything that year was hard, but I pushed through the pain, determined to put a smile on my face and do everything with double the enthusiasm for my daughter’s sake. I wanted her to have memories like mine. I wanted her to have fun.
The second year doing it all alone has been much easier. Not that it doesn’t still hurt sometimes. Not that it isn’t frustrating or stressful or exhausting. Just that I’m happier. I’m stronger. I’m okay being a single mom and this year I celebrated all of those days with more of my old goofy, quirky, childlike giddiness than the last year. Zahara’s 2nd birthday left me smiling, not a tear in sight or in my heart. By the end of 2011 I found myself free of the pressure in my chest of 2010, the one I got from pushing all the pain down and forcing myself to live and laugh in the moment. Now, I don’t have to force any of it. I do live in the moment. I do laugh and mean it, even deep inside.
It’s the laughter, the memories that are made that are so important to me. It’s knowing that no matter what else is happening in my life, I am still a goofball and I like being that way! I can make myself and my baby happy with what others may call my childishness. And that’s all that matters.
I want my daughter’s childhood to be full of these crazy happy times. I want to be a fun mommy and pass on my goofball good humor and positive approach to obstacles and life. And from the looks of things this past Halloween (2011) I have already done my job. Here’s to really putting the happy back in life, for myself and my little goofball in training! :~)