This week is a good friend’s eighteenth birthday.  As I prepared her inter-cultural birthday present, wrote her card, and eventually attended the party this past weekend, I reflected on my eighteenth birthday, and everything I know now about those moments, that I didn’t then, and made a note to share them with her.

When I turned 18, I didn’t feel any different. I was, and still am, uninterested in the ability to buy porn, cigarettes, or scratch tickets. My birthday party was a surprise, which I attended after spending the day with my boy friend (at the time) and his mom. It was a luau, and beautiful, and if it happened to me today, the pictures would reflect me bawling instead of smiling.

Sadly, only now, watching my baby best friend turn 18, do I realize what a milestone the birthday really is, and how special mine was. Last night, we gathered around her kitchen table, sharing chairs, and laughing while we struggled to pick up sushi with chopsticks. Sharing a seat with the birthday girl at the head of the table, I had a new perspective on the party, literally. Looking around the table at the variety of girls made me realize that although I will always consider her entirely mine, she is something very, very special to each of those girls, and for each one, something unique. I know which admire her, which succeed with her, which protect her, but ultimately, she is unconditionally loved by them all. I almost wonder how it’s possible: a group of girls who aren’t a defined friend group, much less, who aren’t even necessarily friends, all find comfort and friendship in this one person. Furthermore, their abilities to put all other aspects of the past aside, along with ignoring the million and one things they had to do at that same moment, wholly devoting their time to this occasion.

Maybe each birthday is this way, or maybe it’s just the milestones. Reflecting on my own, I remember 18, 16, and 13, more clearly than the others. At 13, and even 16, you’re too young to know who your real friends are, and now, thinking about my birthday party, I realize that I had real, true friends at 18, but didn’t realize it until two years later, when I watched someone else go through the same thing.

If nothing else, from now on, I plan on having a birthday party to remember all of the “non-important” birthdays, 20, 22, 23, and so on.  Because a birthday is a day where you get to sit at the head of the table, and be surrounded by people who might not even know each other, but who don’t care. It’s just so .. happy, and personal and special: how often do you have everyone you love together?