“We are at once the same—and worlds apart” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Morgan Piironen by ©Emily Dozois

Morgan and I bonded over our shared love of photography. She is one year younger than me, but we shared the same photo class in high school. We were the ones in the class who wanted to make something of this passion, so we began shooting together after school and on weekends. We quickly found that we had much more in common than just our shared love of photography, and I am so lucky to count her as one of my closest friends now. This year, we travelled together to Cuba. Most of our time was obviously spent taking photos of each other, and this is one of the ones that I loved the most. The entire trip was absolutely amazing in every way, and I am so lucky to have been able to share it with someone as incredibly beautiful and brilliantly confident and motivated as Morgan. – Emily D

Image © Emily Dozois

An Interview with Morgan

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

A. For my 16th birthday my parents decided to pay for a friend of mine to accompany us on a family vacation. My friend and I spent weeks preparing for this exciting trip to Punta Canada. This vacation certainly was the most generous birthday present I have ever received. There are so many specific memories that were made on this trip such as parasailing, snorkelling and late nights spent awake chatting in bed about boys and school and secrets and life.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A.  Many of my birthdays from my childhood were spent in bed sick. I don’t know if it was that my body couldn’t handle all the excitement that I had around my birthday time, but whatever the case, those birthdays were never fun. One year my parents organized a whole spa day for my friends and I. After spending a day basking in the glory of my new-found state of 10 year old zen, I suddenly fell ill. Throwing up, fever, the whole works. The worst part about that birthday was the fact that it was a sleepover and all my friends could enjoy it but me… the birthday girl upstairs alone in bed.

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

A. For my 17th birthday my parents surprised me with a Bowens lighting system. A few months prior to my birthday, my old lights decided to quit on me mid-shoot, and (being the poor student that I am) I was left lightness until this awesome surprise! The system included 2 strobe flashes, a soft box and umbrella. It was a gift that was totally unexpected which made it all the more exciting! Needless to say, this was the best and most useful present ever! The planning that went into this surprise meant so much as my parents had secretly conferenced with my photography teacher.

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

A. My mom is a personal chef, so she cooks many extravagant meals that are less common among my friends. Besides the fact that she is an excellent cook, she is also very specific about food pairing and only eating specific types of foods at different times of the year (soups are for winter, salads for summer etc…). So, on my birthday, which falls at the tail end of winter (not quite salad weather), I always request my favourite: Quinoa Salad. And she can’t say no!

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

A. The most important aspect of celebrating a birthday is to focus on the fact that that person has made it another year in his/her life, with family, friends and health. Knowing and appreciating that mother-nature has been on your side yet another year is the biggest part of your special day! Celebrate yourself and eat cake… why not!?

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

A. No we don’t other than the usual birthday cake and “Happy Birthday” song.