Happy birthday to me, but no singing please

The time of the year has come where I get that little bit older. It’s a remarkable improvement talking about it on my blog. When I was a child, for some reason I was never fond of celebrating my birthday and I never really enjoyed being at the center of the attention of the little bash my parents planned for me. I didn’t even like receiving presents.

In fact, this might be an excellent opportunity to publicly apologise to those friends and family members who kindly bought me presents throughout the years I didn’t show much enthusiasm and appreciation for. I know what my sister would say: “weird, since a
very young age
”. She is right.

The aspect of the birthday party I found most difficult to deal with was listening to my friends singing happy birthday while one of my parents was bringing the cake with the little candles all light up. The great majority of kids love it, I didn’t. Things didn’t
improve much until the end of my teens. By then I felt a lot more in control
about my birthday celebrations and became easier arranging a sober and intimate
gathering with only a few close friends. The cake was still there though, mysteriously
popping out at some point.

I wish I could remember the first day I stick skins under my skis and started to climb up the mountain; or the first day I strapped a snowboard on my feet. Hang on, I probably know this one: it was June 1991. I know, remembering the number of the month would make it a proper date to celebrate. The first day I went ski touring was a culmination of
everything I knew (at that time not much) about skiing and the beginning of something far bigger than I could have known. It was one of those strange and rare moments that help define the rest of our lives.

Exactly 34 years ago I experienced another similar moment. How can I remember something that happened such a long time ago? Thanks to my parents I have a photo of that moment. Photos are time machines. They have the power to transport us back in the past and allow us to blend together memories of places, people and emotions. This is me aged 3, pushing my sledge up the hill.

According to my mum I was never tired of playing on the snow. When the other children were cold and wanted to go in for a hot chocolate or something I wanted to stay out. It was no different when it was cold and snowing. I could go on for hours pushing my
sledge up and then slide down. Years later the sledge became a pair of skis, a snowboard
and eventually a splitboard. This photo and my parents’ memories about my first years on the snow are the proof that when I say I have had a passion for the outdoors all my life I am not exaggerating. Over a period of 34 years, that same enthusiasm for my home mountain environment of the Appennini in the Abruzzo region in the centre of Italy, took me to the most beautiful mountain ranges of our planet on four continents: Alps and Dolomites in Europe, Wasatch Mountains in the US, Coastal Range and Rocky Mountains in Western Canada, New Zealand and Australian Alps, Andes in South America and more recently Greenland and the Lyngen Alps in the Arctic.

I often say that over the years the mountains have thought me important lessons, and that’s true. It’s also true though that before the mountains, I have to thank my parents for teaching me – among many other lessons – the love and the appreciation for the natural world without which I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I went on my first camping
holiday when I was 5 months old! In their own different, sometimes dysfunctional way, they showed me and my sister that as long as something has loving intent there is no right or wrong. However difficult the process might be, it’s important to find the strength to go through it and pursue whatever is that you are trying to achieve. That in itself will help you learning something about yourself and ultimately, if you wish to stay on that path, will make you a better person.

So today it’s not only about me getting a little bit older. It’s mainly about my parents and about all the lessons, the love and compassion they shared with me and my sister over the
years.

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4 Responses to Happy birthday to me, but no singing please

  1. Joanna Pawlukowiec says:

    Lieber Matteo, alles liebe zum Geburtstag und ganz viel Schnee.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Beautiful sentiment Matteo. How could I guess you weren’t materialistic? Ace pics.

  3. Sister says:

    Could i be a prouder sister than i am of my “weird” but wise and loving little brother?

  4. peta miller says:

    Matteo you are a watery little fish, full of the depths and emotional perception. I know because I’m a crab often scuttling sideways into the reeds! I love the photos. V impressed that despite all your migration you carry around a mobile memory archive.. Your parents obviously taught you the most important thing in life: to love

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