Vala and One of Many Things She Doesn't Understand

Daniel had left the light to his office on when he went to lunch with Teal'c.  It was off now.
He had also left the precious artifacts from PL4-131 on his workbench, waiting to be packed and carted to Area 51.  But in their place and lying on her belly, her face framed by the light of his laptop, was Vala. 
"What are you doing?"
Vala looked up from Daniel's laptop, mid keystroke.  "Ah… Research?" she said through a forced smile.
"Oh, no, no, no.   Using a secure laptop to browse online store catalogs does not constitute research."
"Really?  Who said anything about…?"
"Shut it down." 
"But—"
Daniel moved to close the laptop, but Vala was faster, flipping on to her back to sit up and drawing it up onto her lap, holding it possessively.  "I was having lunch today with Lt. Pearlman," she went on to say, heedless of the hard stare Daniel was giving her, "who told me it was his daughter's second birthday, and that they were having a large celebration to mark the occasion."
"So you were browsing online for a birthday gift?"
"Gift?"
"A present.  It's tradition in some cultures to give the birthday person a card or gift of some kind."
"Actually, darling, I was researching birthdays in general."
"You were?"
"Uh, huh."
"Why?"
"Something he said confused me."
"And you didn't ask him to clarify it for you?"
Vala shrugged one shoulder and pursed her lips, her brow wrinkling in what Daniel assumed was thought, but turned out to be confusion.  "It's bad enough everyone here already believes I'm a little… pfft… wonko.  I didn't want to add to that rather general opinion…"
"… By asking what you thought would be a silly question?" Daniel finished for her.  "It doesn't work that way, Vala."
"Oh, yes!  It does.  You wouldn't believe how many of your Earth references go straight through me!"
"Over you.  The term is to have a comment pass over you.  And you're not from Earth, so I don't think anyone would begrudge you asking a few questions, even if they thought the answers were obvious."
"Yes, well, sometimes I'm not so sure."  She turned the laptop towards him, to show him the page she was currently viewing.  The origins and meaning of birthdays.
"Right," Daniel said quietly, "so not a shopping site after all.  What were you looking for?  Maybe I can help?"
"Lt. Pearlman said it was his daughter's second birthday."
"Yeah.  And?"
"Well, being the mother of a child hell bent on galactic domination and the submission of millions, dare I say billions of potential worshipers, all in the name of Origin, I'm not exactly number one on the motherhood list of how to do things right.  However, I'm pretty sure most people are only born once."
"Right." 
"And yet Lt. Pearlman's daughter was having her second birthday.  I naturally assumed she'd died in some manner and had been reborn.  Wouldn't be a first… as I'm sure you know.  But when I asked how she died the first time to deserve a second birth, the good lieutenant spat his coffee up all over me, though I'm sure it wasn't deliberate.  You know, it's a good thing I still live on base and could change my shirt; otherwise I'd have to borrow one of yours… or perhaps Samantha's.  I thought about Muscle's but… well, there's a reason I call him--"
Daniel looked aghast and struggled to rein in his disbelief and put on a sympathetic face.  "What did he do next?"
"Apologized and handed me a napkin."
"No.  I mean what did he say?"
"Oh!  He said his daughter was special and that they hoped she would have many more birthdays to come.  Then he left.  Did I say something wrong?"
"No.  Well, not really.  It was more a cultural misunderstanding.  I'd say you surprised him more than having actually said anything wrong.  Vala, tell me this: When were you born?"
"When my mother came to full gestation and delivered me.  I assume it's done the same way here?"
"Yes, but that's not quite what I meant."
"Good to know.  The whole idea of being flown in by some long-legged bird and dropped on a doorstep does sound a little... unbelievable."
"Bird?  The stork?  That's a…" No answer was ever going to be good enough to explain that little myth away.  "Never mind.  What date where you born?"
"Date?"
"The time, day of the week, the month?"
"Now why would I want to know that?"
"Your parents didn't tell you when you were born?"
"Pretty sure I was far too young to remember anything said at the time."
Daniel dipped his chin to his chest and sighed softly.  He looked back up at her, to the confused expression on her face and the laptop she still had facing him.  "Let's try this again.  Do you remember your parents celebrating the anniversary of your birth every year?"
"No."
"No cake with candles, family and friends crowded around to help you celebrate, gifts to open?"
Vala stared at him, stony faced, and a twinge of something Daniel suspected was sorrow was reflected in her eyes.  He wasn't quite sure if she didn't understand the concept of celebrating a birthday yearly or whether it was something her parents never did for her.  And he didn't want to press the subject.  He pushed the laptop aside and hooked his foot around the leg of a chair, drawing it over to sit down next to her.  "Traditions are funny things.  What works in some cultures, doesn't in others.   They evolve and grow; sometimes they even disappear to be replaced with something more modern to the era.  And sometimes it's perfectly fine to take on a tradition that might not belong to you in the first place.  Let's call it being flexible."
"What are you trying to say?"
"You don't' know when you were born?"
"I think we've covered that bit already, "Vala said in a hushed tone.
"Yes.  But more to the point, with you not exactly being the type of person to stay in one place, or in your case, one planet, for all of your life…  I guess what I'm trying to say is even if you had some sense of your age based on when you were born versus the number of years you've been alive, it would be hard to keep track of it all unless you were continually referring back to the date system used on the planet you were raised on.  Right?"
"In other words, I have no idea how old I am because I don't know when I was born and I haven't lived on the same planet all of my life?"
"Exactly."
"And so Lt. Pearlman's daughter wasn't reborn at all.  She has the benefit of parents that love her enough to remind her every year of the day on which she was born."
"It's not that way everywhere on Earth.  In fact, there are some religions that don't observe birthdays at all."
"But you do."
"Yes.  I'm not a huge party type of person, and I don't need gifts, but it is nice to mark the day my parents brought me into the world in some way.  Even if it's just me sparing a moment to be thankful."
"I was born.  I am the mother of a child, and yet I have no idea on what date she was born.  Tomin never explain the date system on Ver Isca, and even if he had, I doubt I could have understood it enough to relate it to when Adria was born, or even now."
"It's hard."
"Yes."  Vala pushed herself off Daniel's desk and crossed her arms, a look of determination on her face.  "You said its fine to take on a tradition that might not be mine."
"I did and you can.  It's what you feel in your heart that matters most."
"Does that include me wanting to have a birth date?  Even one that wasn't mine to begin with?"
"Sure.  Why not?  Do you have a date in mind?"
"I was thinking of July 8."
"Ah, no… that's mine."
"You mean that among the however many billions of people on this planet you are the only person with that date?"
"No, I just figured you'd want a date that wasn't related to anyone here.  One that you can fully make your own."
"So Samantha's is out of the question as well?  Cameron?  And what about Teal'c?"
"Try thinking outside the box a little more.  How about today's date?" 
Vala checked the calendar on Daniel's desk. "April 6?"
"Seems appropriate."
"Then April 6 it is."  A huge smile settled on her lips.  "And as today is my birthday a celebration is in order.  I think I recall you mentioning cake, family and friends, and something about presents!"
The End

 

 

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