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I truly enjoy birthdays, always have and hope I always will. I think this mindset comes from the sense of occassion my mom made of every birthday in our home, as my siblings and I came of age. From the presents that were only to be given on the morning of the auspicious day, to being woken up with tea in bed to somewhat questionable renditions of the happy birthay song.

As we grew older and left the family nest, early morning tea was replaced by early morning phone calls. My mom still takes pride in the fact that she is the first one to phone and wish each of us happy birthday, each year. These special occassions are now celebrated over a meal, which often incites a sense of reflection on some of the more crazy things that have happened in our lives. And old photos.

Laughter is the order of such family gatherings.

I take time on my birthday to reflect on my life and what has transpired over the last year. To consider where I am and what I have achieved. To consider what I would like to achieve and thus tick-off from my list in a years time. This year my birthday, celebrated yesterday 5 April, was different.

Lockdown Birthday Cake

A Birthday In Lockdown

Lockdown has changed everything and has certainly not left the humble birthday celebration untouched. Let me start by saying that I could not find myself in a better place for the lockdown period. Many fellow South Africans are not in the same position, or anything remotely similar. The title image for this post is my daily view from home.

Lockdown has turned all of our worlds upside down. To such an extent in fact, that we are not sure how to even begin thinking about plotting a way forward or how to make sense of this time. What does it mean, what will life look like in May? Will we even be free to move around again in May?

But life, in some form, must go on. And so I celebrated my birthday yesterday, lockdown style. My mom was still the first person to call and wish me happy birthday, even though I missed the call. But we video called later in the day. See – adaptability!

A Special Surprise

Having lamented last week my rather unfortunate planning faculties which resulted in the white wine being no more, I was extrememly thrilled to wake up to a great bottle of the very elixir of life, courtesy of my housemate Marlene. To say I had tears well up in my eyes would be an understatement.

We had planned to have an ‘over the wall’ braai with our neighbours to celebrate this day. Due to the elevation of the respective properties, we can chat to each other from the relative comfort of camping chairs with nothing but the slightly lowered boudary wall and an electric fence between us. So with a stride in my step preparations were made, starting with an on-the-go outdoor bar for the wine.

The Outdoor Bar


Braaing Like No Mans Business

The traditional braaivleis (barbeque) is a South African right ingrained into each and every one of us. So it was fitting in this time of national, no world-wide, distress, to tap into such traditions. Between making the fire, cooking the meat, taking a few snaps and flying the drone, it was a busy birthday braai.

A New Normal

This birthday celebration was special because it was the first time in nine days that I was able to chat to actual other human beings, not in our home, who were also not on a computer screen. Technology is amazing but it will never be able to fully replace human contact.

So in my state of reverie new normals were created. One sided braaing, birthday cakes on the boundary wall and champagne cheers over the electric fence. 

Birthday Cheers Over the Electric Fence during Lockdown in South Africa

What I Learnt From This Experience

My birthday celebrated during lockdown taught me that the human spirit is one that cannot be subdued and curtailed. Given a new set of circumstances it rises to prominence and says no, I will not be beaten.

This was my first birthday without my family being physically present, but thanks to my moms years of preparation and love, the bonds were still there, we just experienced them via a Zoom meeting. I also discovered the true value of good neighbours and Whatsapp birthday wishes. Many of these messages were so heartfelt, I almost feel sorry for you if you don’t get to experience your birthday during this time and receive these notes of love.

I truly am blessed. Out of my proverbial socks.

The laughter with family over old photographs will have to be put on hold for now, but soon we will gather once again in a new world. One that combines that which we did before, but with a splash of the new normal we are defining for ourselves.

Stay strong and healthy during lockdown!

Braaing during Lockdown in South Africa

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1 Comment

  1. Wow Ryan what a beautiful message – you are such an inspiration to us all. I actually had tears in my eyes – you are so special Ryan & I love you so much

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My name is Ryan and I am a work in progress.

(hello Ryan)

I blog about aspects of life that interest and excite me, those issues that make me think and reflect. These musings I look forward to sharing with you on the blog, as they happen.

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