A pandemic birthday gave me an opportunity to reconnect with my sister

October 22, 2020 — by Carolyn Wang
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 A low-key, isolated celebration comes with unexpected benefits.

Celebrating a birthday during the pandemic seems exceptionally bland. Social distancing means having no friends, no big balloons, no birthday parties and definitely no trips to the movie theater with friends.

Yes, I confess that it was quite sad to think that the original fun of a large celebration was taken away by a virus smaller than the width of a strand of my hair. But oddly enough, my sister’s 13th birthday showed me that despite not having the typical activities of in-person birthday parties — store-bought presents, cake from Whole Foods and Netflix — a COVID-19 birthday actually has plenty of perks of its own.

For once, my younger sister and I couldn’t invite any friends over, meaning that I got to spend time celebrating with special people who I often neglected in favor of the flashier crowd: my family. 

Honestly, it’s been some time since I watched a birthday movie with my sister or we searched up funny cat compilations together. And it’s definitely been too long since I watched that magical princess show called Lolirock that I never finished in sixth grade. But luckily, my sister’s at-home chill birthday gave me the best chance to spend time with my loved ones without the watchful eye of other people.

Additionally, the pandemic didn’t exactly make it  easy to go to places like Party City — this meant that it was up to me to come up with the best homemade present ever, whether it was an origami crane with a sloppy “Happy Birthday” written in sharpie over the wings or a fuzzy pom-pom dinosaur with hot-glued googly eyes sitting on a banner that spelled out “sweet 13.” If you really want to know, I went with a variation of the Happy Birthday origami crane, so don’t judge.

Despite the silliness of it all, being able to create presents myself in lieu of using store-bought goods allowed me to tap into my long-lost origami powers. And even better is the fact that my sister appreciated my homemade present more than the Target birthday card I gave her last year.

But wait; what about cake? It was a total bummer when I couldn’t go to my favorite bakery during the pandemic. But the COVID-19 birthday came with yet another new activity: experimenting. Have you ever made a fruit cake yourself? And no, not the normal fruit cakes you see at the grocery store, but fruit cake that is literally only made up of fruits. If you haven’t, you should try it out, because it’s literally genius. 

The only ingredients needed are watermelon and random fruits that make cakes look pretty. Then, after slicing the watermelon into flat cake-shaped circles, stack them on top of each other, sprinkle your fruits around the exteriors, and voila! A scrumptious flourless cake that takes 10 minutes to make and comes with the added benefit of no calories and plenty of vitamin C.

Don’t be fooled, though, because the beautiful appearance of the cake is deceiving. It’s extremely difficult to cut the fruit cake into actual slices because the fruits end up falling all over the place. After a painful struggle, my family resorted to eating huge watermelon circles with our hands and bashing it into the blender to create a grape-blackberry-strawberry-watermelon fruit juice. Sadly, recovering my long-lost fruit ninja skills was not as easy as recovering my origami skills, so I’ll probably never make the cake again.

But seriously, having the chance to celebrate a unique COVID-19 birthday left a memory unlike any of my normal birthday celebrations.

Of course, this is not to say that friends and normal presents aren’t great, but it’s just that will stand out even more. In the end, I’m glad that I had a chance to reconnect with my sister in these crazy times, even though my beautiful origami crane is probably gathering dust under our old couch.


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