If you know me or have been following my blog, you would know how much a birthday means to me. It comes once in a whole year, it carries the magic and mystery of another whole year ahead and brings back beautiful childhood memories, whether it’s my birthday or that of my family members, I pull out all stops and make it a day to remember!
But sometimes things are not in your control. It was my boys’ birthday last week. They are born on March 27 and March 29 so its quite convenient to host a common birthday party for both of them which I have been doing for the last 12 years. This year as my younger one became a tween and the older one turned 16, as a special treat, I had decided to let them celebrate their birthday in Ocean Park with their friends. Ocean Park was offering free tickets for all kids aged 12 and under, which was another big incentive! This plan was made in mid-January, just before Chinese New Year, just before corona virus hit Hong Kong and within a few days – the rest of the world.
I am quite an organised person so I didn’t take too well to the ‘upheavals’ that the virus brought into our lives. But I was thankful too that we were safe and healthy and together as a family unlike many other expat families that I knew, who were either separated traveling out of Hong Kong during CNY holidays or who were quarantined when they arrived back into Hong Kong recently. When the “new normal” finally sunk in, I planned a different celebration for my boys- plan B. A semi-outdoor pizza party with a close group of friends is what I had in mind. The party was set for Sunday, March 29. Though Hong Kong was never under any lock-down and we were ever so careful about cleanliness and hygiene and wearing our masks when we went out, I was getting a bit more apprehensive as the number of positive covid-19 cases were increasing. As luck would have it, just a day the party, the government decided to put in stricter measures, one of them being – ‘No public group gathering’ – so that was the end of plan B.
I was actually quite surprised by the maturity shown by my boys who merely shrugged when I read the news to them and told them that we couldn’t go ahead with the party. Taking inspiration from their positive attitude, I decided not to let my own pre-conceived notions about “birthday celebrations” come in the way. Sunday, March 29 dawned bleak and chill but only in terms of weather as my sons woke up with BIG smiles and got ready to bring in the special day! We went out together as a family (masked and all) to buy my younger son’s birthday gift – something that he had been wanting and waiting for a long time. I took the opportunity to buy a few knick-knacks for myself as going shopping is not something you did often these days. We had intended to have lunch outside, but the birthday boy wanted traditional dal and rice cooked by his mom so we all headed back home and I rushed into the kitchen to get our late lunch ready! The light drizzle outside removed any lingering doubts in my mind about Plan A or Plan B! It turned out to be a nice relaxed day, with no rush to go anywhere or meet anyone. However the best part about the day was yet to come as both father and older brother took off to the kitchen to prepare the world’s best pizzas! Earlier on in the day, at the super market, they had taken their time hunting for all the ‘right’ ingredients – a step that I normally skip as I substitute recipe ingredients with whatever is available in my kitchen! But the effort was well worth it I must say. The kitchen was busy as my two boys worked hard with their heads down. I was called upon sometimes to locate an ingredient or give instructions on how to work the oven, but the rest was completely managed by them, clean-up included! I lounged on my sofa sipping on my sauvignon blanc, updating my online social status, taking in the wafts of the delicious pizzas being made!
An hour and a half later, bang on dinner time, freshly baked, authentic looking Italian pizzas were served by our chefs with a choice of our favourite toppings! We sat down excitedly at the dinner table, but talk was quite limited that evening as we sank our teeth into the soft warm bread drizzled with olive oil, ‘oooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ as we relished the flavours of fresh pesto, sun-dried tomato, chorizzo and cheese! Dessert was a double-layered, chocolate-fudge and super-moist strawberry birthday cake that I had baked earlier in the day (with Betty’s help of course!). I had meant to bake these two delights separately as two cakes but now with the less number of people attending our “party,” I decided to make a 2 in 1 cake to keep both my boys happy!
I don’t know about the others but I am certainly going to remember this special covid-19 birthday.
Can’t believe that it took a virus to teach me the simple pleasures of a real birthday celebration!