The early years are a bit fuzzy, but the one memory that stands out clearly is of the day I turned six. I even remember the frock I wore to school. It wasn’t pink or yellow or anything else cutesy. It was beige with a criss-cross pattern in front, and it ended just a little above my scarred knees. It also had two roses embroidered on the lapel, and I couldn’t stop running my fingers over its knotted texture. I remember the day so well because I was the only one in beige in a sea of blue uniforms. I was also the only one with a plastic bag bursting with toffees. “Two for each girl” – mum had counted.
I waited impatiently for the class just before the recess. That’s when the teacher, Miss Pushpa, closed the book, looked straight at me and called me to the front of the class. I acted coy, just like the other girls who’d gone through this routine on their birthdays, but in effect, I simply lapped up all the attention, even took my time getting to the front of the class. That’s a Leo for you. But then, you would know that.
I grinned from ear to ear, not knowing where to look, while the class went through the birthday chorus. When the applause had subsided, I sashayed through the rows handing out two toffees to the girls, and holding out the bag to the teacher, so she could take as many as she wanted. Which was usually one. And then, as girls before me had done, I pulled out a fistful and pushed it into her hand while she protested initially, and then, accepted with a sigh. The dozen or so toffees left were reduced to wrappers by the time the school bus reached our lane.
I cannot remember any other birthday in school, except for this one. Maybe it was because it was my first year in school, just like it is yours. I’ve been trying to imagine what your day will be like. Will your classmates make you feel special? Will you be carrying a bag full of sweets? Will you be overrun with gifts this year, like every year?
Speaking of which, I bought your gift before you expressed your desire for ‘something with a remote control’. I was wondering if you meant a TV, when you clarified that it was a car. Were you serious? A car? You never fail to surprise me.
This would be the second year that I’m not around to wish you on your birthday. But you can be sure, I will be celebrating with you every moment. Happy Birthday dearest Alison.