This year for my birthday, when Adam asked me what I wanted to do I knew immediately. Except I was sort of afraid to verbalise it because it was a huge ask. There is a chance we’ll be moving away at the end of the year, and all I wanted for my birthday was a low-key evening at home with my best friends.
For most people that’s actually quite easy to pull off – you simply invite people over and have a barbecue with potluck sides and maybe a store-bought dessert to simplify things. You might have some wine out to get things going, but for the most part it’s BYOB. See? Easy.
Except I’m Asian, and was raised to believe I’d dishonour my family if I dared ask a guest to bring anything to a party I was hosting. (It should be noted that I was also raised to not take no for an answer when asking someone else if I could bring something to their party, and to never, ever show up empty handed no matter how much they begged because that would be unforgivably rude.)
Add to that my visual perfectionist streak and strong opinions about how things like rooms and table settings and flower arrangements should look, and you generally have a recipe for…well, a lot of work.
I was still trying to figure out how to tactfully tell Adam what I wanted when he beat me to it, and offered up the idea of a dinner party at home.
Those words alone could have been the entirety of my birthday present and I’d still have been overwhelmed. We hadn’t entertained in over a year – not since my mother passed away – and the thought of filling the apartment with people and chatter and happiness again was so lovely that I could have cried. I think I did, actually. It suddenly dawned on me that I’d been avoiding entertaining at home because I didn’t want to confront the reality of planning a party without my mother (hosting fêtes was our thing) and I had effectively closed off both the apartment and a part of myself because of it.
The day before the party I had all the feels, but when the actual evening came around, it was perfect – both as a birthday and as the form of closure I didn’t know I needed. It felt like our home and everything in it had come back to life after a long hibernation, and I couldn’t have been happier.I only wish we’d thought to take more photos that evening, but I suppose that’s the mark of a successful dinner party. Shout-out to our friend Dharma for snapping this beautiful shot below and the two of Adam and I above. Thank goodness he happened to be playing with a new camera lens or we probably wouldn’t have gotten any photos at all!
And then, as if that huge gesture of a dinner party wasn’t enough, Adam spent the next day showering me with gifts: a Chanel chain-link brooch I’d been coveting for ages (currently available here and here on Ebay, though I cannot vouch for the sellers), the pearl and ruby tassel earrings I’d admired at a jewelry fair some weeks ago (similar here and here), and a couple of books on my “to-read” list – Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone and George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, which I’m already more than halfway through.
PS: If you were following my Instagram Stories you’ll know that I spent the night before the party hunting down the perfect topper for my birthday cake. Well, here it is, in all its glory! Please excuse the quality – I took this with my phone – but I was delighted at how well it worked out.
It’s been a pretty perfect weekend, and my heart to say my heart is full would be an understatement. Thank you a million times over to everyone who made it so x
JuliaAugust 12, 2019 at 5:04 am
I am very glad to see you back
EmilyAugust 20, 2019 at 5:49 am
Thank you so much Julia! I’m glad to be back – trying to get into the swing of things again!