“William Blake said, “The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.” This may be true—but will the traveler arrive?” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Image by Mélissa Pelchat

An Interview with Lionel

Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?

A. I remember celebrating with my parents, my brothers and my sisters in Kinshasa, Congo when I was little.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. Celebrating my first birthday without my parents, Adolphe Kizaba and Bebe Nyomo, and my sister, Flore Kizaba, after their death.

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

A. A bike and toys I got one time, as well as a milk chocolate cake. I was surprised to get that many gifts.

Q. Is there one food or dish that you insist in eating during your birthday celebration?

A. A Congolese dish: tshaki madesu with chicken.

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

A. In Kinshasa, Congo, we all gather in our backyard with the people we love. There is all kinds of food for all to enjoy, and music. I miss that kind of celebration.

Q. Do you/your family/culture have any traditions/rituals/ceremonies that are performed to celebrate birthdays? What is it?

A. Birthdays in Congo and in Canada are much alike.