“Some people like to be married because this is the only thing that can protect them from another marriage” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Leo Pharand by © Emily Dozois

“I met Leo in tenth grade religion class, but we didn’t become close until we took photography together the next year. Leo is the guy I can call at any time to help me with absolutely anything. He even lets me sleep on the floor of his dorm room when I am too cheap to pay for a hotel! On the day of our shoot, Leo showed up with a box of Timbits and my favourite cappuccino. He’s one of the most thoughtful, selfless people I’ve ever met. I’m so glad he agreed to be a part of this project and gave me an excuse to photograph him!” – Emily D

Image © Emily Dozois

An Interview with Leo

Q. What is the best memory you have from a previous birthday?

A. One of my most recent best birthday memories would have to be the night of my 18th birthday. I spent my 18th birthday in Toronto while away at school. I spent the night laughing and dancing with all these new friends that I had made over the course of the past two months. It was an amazing feeling, I felt all grown up. And there were all these people who had only gotten to know me here to celebrate me, and it was a night that I will surely not forget.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. One of my worst birthday memories was one when I believe I turned 14 or 15. I had invited a load of people to a birthday party at my house because I had just recently moved and saw the opportunity to make some new friends. The outcome was pretty small and it made me sad at the time that not everyone I had invited showed up. But looking back on this day, I realize that the people who did show up would have gone on to become some really great people who taught me some valuable lessons throughout my adolescence and I will always be thankful for that.

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that surprised you most?

A. This would definitely have to be a present from my grandparents. They always come up with the best stuff to get me and it’s always a surprise. I remember one year I was gifted a really nice pen set. It’s this same pen set that I use to this day to do my most creative and thoughtful writing and I really appreciate a quality set of pens.

Q. Is there a food or dish that you insist on eating on your birthday?

A. Well, being born on the 10th of October means we typically celebrate my birthday in conjunction with Canadian thanksgiving. It also happens that I am a big fan of a good turkey dinner and pumpkin. Thus, every birthday I know I can look forward to a good turkey dinner and a delicious slice of pumpkin pie to go with!

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. I think the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday is the people. I believe that the people who are with you, celebrating on your special day, will be the ones you remember, 5, 10 years down the road. Certainly those you celebrated with this year will most likely not be those you celebrate with in a decade from now but these are the people who hold the greatest importance in your life today and shape you into the person you are as you grow older.

Q. Do you have any traditions or thing you always do to celebrate a birthday? What is it?

A. Celebrating birthdays in my family will include two things. The first is called the birthday rights. On your birthday you are allowed to do as little as you please and if say, you ask your sibling to do something for you, they must oblige simply because it is your special day! The second is the cake, this involves candles and the singing of a birthday song. This is followed by presents and the opening of birthday cards, wishing you well on another year.