This is a photograph from my fourth birthday party.
My mom is wearing her wedding sari and I'm wearing a floor-length dress with a prominent red velvet bow in my hair. The little girl on the floor, on the other side of my Mom was my then-best friend, Annie. Her father was my father's best friend; it worked out nicely.
Yes, I have a spot of cake on my face; it was one of my favorite birthday cakes of all time, because it had a lemon-filling. My 6-month old sister smashed part of her head in to it, happily. She had just started to pull herself up to a standing position at that age, and the table my cake was on was almost at her eye-level.
There were over 100 people crammed in to our house for this "evening" event, which my Dad lived for; it was his famous "New Year's/Birthday/Christmas bash", which he held annually on the first weekend in January. I really miss it. I always felt like such a special girl, because my birthdays were so huge and happy.
Since 1999, we have not celebrated, because the man who organized it all, who exulted in the merriment, is gone. To some, I sound oddly petty as a 33-year old lamenting the lack of celebrating but for those who grew up with me, they know. Twenty years of huge parties created a subconscious expectation of more of them, and to abruptly end such a glittering, fun tradition was brutal, not because I was the proto-type for those twats on My Super Sweet 16, but because it is confirmation that my father is really gone.
One day, when I'm married, I'm going to bring that tradition back. I've felt incomplete without it. Maybe by then, there will be a different little girl, in a similar dress, with ribbons in her hair. I hope that I can make her feel as loved as I was when this picture was taken, a moment before my mom took the edge of her precious Kanjeevaram sari and gently brushed the frosting off my cheek.