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Born on Valentine’s Day

This year, my mother is my valentine. It’s been her for my entire life, because her birthday is on February 14 Valentine’s Day.

This holiday that dates back to Roman times was not celebrated nor known by people in the Soviet Union. So for my mom, this day was just a birthday until 1988, when the isolationist system started opening up to Western ideologies. It was her 22nd birthday, she spent it at the medical school, studying for exams. I’ve inherited that trait from her, celebrating my past four birthdays with my one and only — Fogler Library.

Today, supermarkets in Astana, Kazakhstan and all around the developed world are turned various shades of pink, filled with bouquets of roses and Valentine’s Day cards.

“Throughout the years, especially after my 50th birthday, I don’t even want to treat it as a birthday,” my mother said, talking to me over FaceTime.

When I was six years old, I drew her a card that exclaimed: “Happy 63rd Mom!” It was her 36th. I remember her happy laughter, she loved my numbering mistake. I quickly picked up on that, and on her 38th, I drew a card congratulating her with her 83rd birthday. She’s kept these cards, safely tucked away in the kitchen drawer.

“83 is a big age, I hope to live that long, maybe even longer if all goes well,” my mom said. To this day she cherishes that warm memory.

If misnumbered cards were my thing, flowers were my father’s specialty. He was often away on my mother’s birthday, working. He had a tradition of sending her flowers from wherever he was.

“The most wonderful ones were when you were six or seven,” she told me, “and he came back from the Netherlands with a bouquet of tulips.”

I remember that too. He got a bouquet of red, yellow, orange, white, and purple tulips in Amsterdam and carried them throughout a five-hour flight home.

“For me it was economical, having her birthday and Valentine’s Day on the same day,” my father said with a laughter in his voice.

“Every one of his arrivals was Valentine’s Day.” My dad gave her a kiss on the cheek from me. In moments like these I wish that the FaceTime app could transport me home for just a few minutes, seconds even.

It’s her 52nd birthday today. I sent her a card congratulating her with her 25th.

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