Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why birthdays make me nervous.

Everyday at around 11 AM, the woman in red would religiously pass by. Some days, she would drop few mails into our box. Mostly bills and invitations to buy stuff. Junk stuff. Other times, she would just walk passed our house.

Last Friday was a special day. I received a small envelop, with my name neatly written on it. I recognized the penmanship but I was not quite sure. I eagerly ripped it open like I normally do, and voila... a nice invitation. I was right after all. It was from my mother-in-law.

That's one thing about my in-laws. When they invite you, it doesn't matter what the occasion is, they always send invitations with all the details. Sometimes, it includes a road map, the parking arrangement, and our hotel room number (if the celebration is taking place out of town). You see, my father-in-law insists on paying close attention to details. He therefore gives you no room for mistakes or excuses either! HAHAHAHA

A few years back, this sort of formality made me nervous. I mean, it's not as if we haven't discussed the matter over the phone because believe me, we did! But as I've said, my father-in-law is very particular about these things.

I looked at the invitation. Oh yes, my dearest Pappa-in-law is turning 75 this year. It´s his Diamond Year. An ideal present would be a pair of diamond cufflings. But I am just a poor girl. I can't afford such expensive presents.

Whereas in the Philippines the most important day is Christmas Day, here in the Netherlands, it's your birthday. Kiddie parties are nice. The birthday celebrator wears a paper crown. The dining table is adorned with fresh flowers, and the celebrator´s chair is decorated with paper flowers or paper balloons. They also hang banderetas all over the living room and the dining table. It´s actually fun. The entire house looks very colorful.

Adult birthday on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

When I was single and was still living in the Philippines, I always looked forward to my birthdays. We even have a birthday leave in the Philippines. Meaning, you don´t have to report to work on your birthday and the best part about it is that you are entitled to it, and they pay you. HUH! Only in the Philippines!! HAHAHAHA

My collegues at work would take me out for dinner then, would split the bill among themselves. I can eat what I want --- I always choose the most expensive meal on the menu, drink as much wine as I want, and go dancing all night long. But only because they insist on it, plus the fact that they pay for everything.

There were also those birthdays I spent with my best friend. Just the two of us doing silly things like that one time that we ate pizza the whole night! :)

Whenever my birthday falls on a weekend, my siblings would then take me out. Same thing. They pay the bill. When my lawyer sisters have established good names for themselves, they started taking me to five star hotels where we dined and stayed for a weekend. My only task is to have fun and more fun. Don´t you just love my life then? I DO!!! HAHAHAHA

When I was a kid, having my birthday meant that I didn´t have to do my chores for a day. If we had fried chicken (in those days, we don´t eat chicken very often even though we have a poultry, and especially not my Ma´s mouth watering fried chicken!), I got the best and biggest part of the chicken. The leg! hehehe

In the beginning, Ma baked the cake. Later on, she didn´t have time anymore to bake, so we had pineapple pie, pianono and sometimes, egg pie from Legaspi (the neighboring province). Since it was my birthday, I had the liberty to have the biggest slice. No question asked from my other siblings.

The nicest part of my birthday, was the social telegram I got from my Pa annually. It was a big thing to me then .... still is, except that Pa passed away 7 years ago so the cards stopped coming.

Ahhhh... birthdays! How I love them...

Until I moved to the Netherlands. Birthdays became my most dreaded day of the year. Here's why....

Before my birthday, I spend two weekends scrubbing every nook and cranny of my house. My mother-in-law is coming, you see. Although she is a very nice lady and doesn't criticise my cleaning skills, she still is a Dutch woman.

She washes her glass window (come high and low... winter or summer) every 2 weeks. Her kitchen is like a page from a magazine. Everything shiny and smelling clean. The linens in her linen cabinet have cross-stitch and laces, and are labeled by months. The wine in their cellar is alphabetically arranged. The crytals and silver ware are sparkling clean. I could go on and on. Bottom line, she's a typical Dutch wife. She cleans, cooks, bakes, sews and makes clothes, does quilt, paints, has her ornamental and herbal plants in their gardens, drives a car and owns a bicycle. In other words, a general in her own kingdom!

So yes, I make an effort whenever they are coming for a visit. I don't want her to think that I am dirty or that I have a dirty household because I don't. I just think that it's a waste of time to scrub and wash my glass windows in Fall or during Winter. But I'm a naturalized Dutch citizen. I was not born and raised here. I only do glasses in Springtime and Summertime. hehehehe

I am getting side tracked. Going back to birthdays....

A week before my birthday, I spend at least 4 or 5 afternoons at supermarkets. I always forget something even though I have a list in my hand! And since I want to impress my guests, I only buy ingredients that I find or think are fresh and reputable (meaning, I know the brand and have used it before).

The day before my birthday, I am in the kitchen preparing and cooking. The whole day! I go to sleep late and get up early to do more cleaning... last minute vacuuming and dusting of furniture. The guests start arriving at 2 PM. Then the fun begins. It will be hours of waiting on people. You will hear me talk like an android until the last guest leaves. My lines would include: Would you like to have a cup of coffee or tea? How about a glass of orange juice? Apple juice maybe? Cola? Port wine? Oh, do you need an extra fork? I'll be right back. Petit four or a slice of cake? Apple pie with or without whipped cream?

Around 6 PM, dinner is served. Since we have a small table, buffet it is. The waiting on people goes on and on and on... By the time they have gone home, I am on the brink of a nervous breakdown, suffering from over-fatigue and am about to cry because I still have to clean my kitchen which looks pretty much like a war zone. HAHAHAHAHAHA

If you want to read more about Dutch birthdays, visit this website:

As for my father-in-law, he will be celebrating his 75th birthday in a castle. That's another thing about the Netherlands. You can rent a castle for one afternoon. Nice, isn't it?


Anita said...

I do lots of clenaing and cooking for the birthdays celbrated at my home. Even when I was 7 months pregnant I baked lots of pies and quiches for my birthday celebration. I discovered that this is more about entertaining guest than having fun. I am also very preoccupied about logistics (making lists of ingredients, buing flags and candles, removing plants or my coats from the hall...). So I mostly prefer to celebrate my birthday with a trip or a dinner out with my husband and I celebrate at home my kids birthdays and his - with grandeur.

~ Lopa said...

I can so so relate with you...

Back home Birthdays were so much fun, noone says you anything, friends gives you surprise parties, ya at times we also have to throw a birthday party for friends still, there will be more than 3 cakes waiting at 12 mid night, as your friend, cousins, siblings wouldnt have communicated and all would be there to surprise !

Here party means cleaning for days before and after, living in kitchen from two days cooking.
I don't have a Dutch Partner and we don't have many close friends so at times it is easy that we just decide to go out on those days.

Back home it was out wish to bring cakes and chocolates to office but then you will have clolleagues who are friends now bringing cakes for you, here we have to bring a treat to office, always :)

And by the way i don't clean glasses as well, only we have a party my hubby dear cleans them :)

I really envy Dutch cleaning and organizing skills, i just clean kitchen platform after dinner everyday that is more than enough for me, only weekend cleaning is a time i try to make it look like in magazine, but still it hardly ends up looking like that :(

buday said...

ohmigod, production numberrrr! LOL. Grabeng panguskusan. Pero, hmmm, linen arranged by month? I like your Mama-in-law already. :)
As for your father-in-law: castle? Bongga!

rwidiani said...

i HATE dutch birthday party. in the beginning i celebrated it with my in laws, but after a while i stopped. birthday party in INDO is almost the same as yours, for sure much more fun than in NL. i don't like going to birthday party here too (unless the birthday person is indonesian :))) and luckily i'm not the only one in the family who has the same opinion about this. so i don't celebrate my birthday with them and i only go whenever i want:))

btw, the food looks delicious!!

Droomvla said...

@Anita: When I was new here, I had all the excuses in the world not to celebrate my birthday at home, and I got away with it. But nowadays, they just pop round. You don't even have to invite them anymore. They just come.... which is kinda sweet except that one time, they caught me empty handed. I served coffee and tea without a cake or a pie. It was embarrassing. The following year, they came with the cake and pie! HAHAHAHA

Droomvla said...

@Lopa: I also envy their cleaning and organizing skills. I haven´t seen a dirty Dutch house or kitchen. EVER. But I think I will go crazy if I start washing glass windows every other week! HAHAHAHA

Droomvla said...

@Buday: Ay sus, talagang big production number. Sabi ngani san Turkish friend ko, himuon ko kuno na musical. HAHAHAHAHA

Bay-i kay ipakilala ko ikaw sa mother-in-law ko nan sabihan ko na ipakita saimo an linen cabinet niya. HAHAHAHA Did I mention to you na iba an eating utensils niya for breakfast and dinner? Iba pa an pang guests nan iba naman na set an pang Christmas and Easter. Maski wara bisita, talagang ritual saiya an pagkaon! HAHAHAAHA

An father-in-law ko, mahilig sa mga historical places. He´s a retired surgeon kaya he can afford those things.

Droomvla said...

@rwidiani: my favorite part whenever I attend a Dutch birthday party is shaking everybody´s hands and greeting/congratulating everybody upon your arrival!! I still find it weird to congratulate a total stranger on my/our friend´s birthday. HAHAHAHAHA

Jesusa said...

aysus, basi mahimatay an mom in law mo kay kun magkadi sa balay namon kay igwa kami nin batit. an house cleaner namon naglilinis every other week lang. pagkalinis niya, after 5 minutes maramok naman, LOL. mayad ngani kay lain ka inpa-attend nin cleaning school,hahaha. o hala, don't forget to post pictures san castle and the celebration. bagan masiramun an linuto mo ha. mayad ka pa maaram magluto. kay kun wara si mommy an inkakaon namon quesedilla lang, hahaha.

Droomvla said...

@Jesusa: Mayad ka pa kay may house cleaner. What I would do to have a house cleaner! Ipabakal intero pati an kalag. HAHAHAHA
Highly-organised nan malinison talaga sa balay an mga Dutch. Training from childhood. Basta an hirit ko pirme sa mga nagko comment sa ramok ko, "music an inadalan ko, nan bawal sa kamot ko an mga magub-at na trabaho sa balay." HAHAHAHAHA
Mayad man ina na dili maaram magluto kay kitaa ako, dili lang mataba kundi obese pa kay payt lang an kaon.HAHAHAHAHA

Jesusa said...

kay kun yadto kita sa pinas, 24/7 pa an malinis nin balay, may para luto pa, may para hugas, etc.
ok lang an ina na pagkaon, basta magtagadalagan ka lang sa neighborhood nindo, hahaha.

mub said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who dreads birthdays here! I have managed to convince my in-laws that I don't like to make a big deal about it and luckily they respect that. They don't understand it but at least I don't feel stressed and miserable on MY day *L*

Dana said...

Hilarious and this is totally how it is. Personally, I dread not my own birthdays (because I now insist on NOT celebrating it), but my boyfriend's, which sometimes means 2-3 separate parties - for families, friends, and other friends of a more unfamiliar nature. The ongoing one is likely to drag on for a good 3 weeks. Hoorah!