I woke up late in the haze of a complicated and visceral dream. Conscious of the grey light pouring through the balcony window and of the children playing and calling to each other in Hindi within the alleyway below. The thick silver blanket weighed heavy, and I snuggled into its fuzz, not wanting to get up. Not wanting to face the day with the even heavier knowledge that it had somehow happened. I had turned the big two-five.
My quarter century birthday was a month ago, but the wishes and cake frosting still seem vivid and tangible. I’m all too aware of the Facebook announcements of friends and colleagues my age. Naked to the fact that I’m away living in a foreign land, a world apart from those friends and family, and growing older amidst my dreams.
Thunderclaps pounded against the glass. I lay listening. The rolling sound waves comforted me through their familiarity. They sounded just as they did back at home in the States (which I would later tell my friends over our shawarma, much to their amusement). Rain danced on the dusty streets and muddied the marble outside. I lay listening still. And all I could think, “Amanda, you’re 25. How did you get here? When did 22 become 25?”
Midnight had struck the night into November 16th. An elegant chocolate cake floated onto our table outdoors. I made a wish and blew. Waiters gathered on the edges to look on as the expat girl enjoyed her celebration. The trick candle refused to go out, and through the laughter, I decided to wish again as reggae music lilted our way from inside. In the parking lot later, a friend held my arms back as another shoved a different cake, that circular delight, into my face as per Indian tradition. I saw marked in frosting, “Dallas to Delhi Cowgirl,” before my vision went white. The sweetness on my face was warm against the cold night. Part of me wanted to wear it forever, coated in happiness and custom and hidden from a world back home that would ask, “What now?”
I’ve been reading about Angels recently, thanks to some impulse purchases at a bookstore recently, and their protection, no matter where we happen to have found ourselves on this earth. About love, God’s plan for all of us, and how pursuing the dreams put in our hearts matters more than we would give it credit for. Though it means risking failure, risking taking the wrong turn, risking pain and loss. It means sacrificing comfort and nearness to family and to those who understand us most. But it guarantees growth and being filled with the energy and passion of pursuing something that is every bit a part of our DNA as our height or skin color are, though those things can be superficially changed. Even if that pursuit leads me to turning 25 as I spend my life in India.
I finally did make it out of bed this morning, dawning a new favorite sweatshirt, and sat down with a book given to me by R, who has left for her home country recently and left me missing my best friend. Again I read the note she inscribed inside the cover, smiling at the trail of kindness people leave behind in their lives. Lighting a candle, I belted out “Have yourself a Merry little Christmas…” as I heated up water for coffee on the flat’s new heating device. The cooking utensils lining the now cleaned cabinets and counter top warmed my insides even before the drink could. As I stirred in leftover sugar taken from a Barista coffee shop (my favorite new haunt), I peered through the curtains at the Delhi day. Quiet peace settled through the empty flat, the candle flickered softly, and the carol’s words sang through my soul, “let your heart be light…from now on our troubles will be miles away…here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore…faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more…through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow…hang a shining star upon the highest bow…and have yourself a Merry little Christmas now.”
Tonight I turn my face up towards the now clear sky, appreciating the shining stars that have been hung by One who understands when I do not. Who knows age is merely a number and that our lives are always the sum of our dreams, no matter how old, no matter where. Through the past 25 years, I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunities and special people in my life that have been placed there, and I’m looking forward with a light heart to this Christmas and being joined with memories, both past and present.
May the next quarter century be even brighter, no matter where, no matter with whom. Despite my age, the Disney princess inside me will always believe in dreams…