Over the years of living in Chile, we have discovered that birthdays are very significant here. Not that they aren't elsewhere, but in Chile even among adults it is considered polite and friendly to specially recognize this day in the life of someone. Oftentimes it is by way of a personal phone call, a big bear hug, sometimes a present and usually a cake! Our struggle at times is finding a balance between expectations and personal comfort and feasibility. Here is what I mean by that.
|the "Fab Five" on their way to see The Jungle Book|
Through trial and error, we learned that inviting others to a birthday "party" had some expensive and expansive expectations! In the case of children, gift bags for each attendee with small toys and sweets; activities, games or shows for entertainment; a piñata filled with more goodies; and food and drinks in addition to the big birthday cake. After a few attempts, as parents we felt the quantity outweighed the quality of the celebrations (though the kids may not have shared our opinion!) Since then our goal is to make each child's birthday special in some way, but we would rather invest in making memories than in a boatload of candy.
|Joanne playing Happy Birthday on her banjo|
This year we gave Alec the option to choose between a trip to Happyland with a couple of friends, or to see Disney's new adaptation of The Jungle Book with his siblings. He chose the latter, which also of necessity included purchasing quick value meals from the McDonald's drive-thru because we were on the clock to pick up Owen from school and make it to the movie on time. However, a simple drive-thru experience became memorable when we were approached by a homeless man requesting money. I offered to buy him food instead. "A Big Mac! Get me a Big Mac?" he urged. "Not a Big Mac," I replied, "but I will get you exactly what our family is eating." At the second window where we received the food, he made specifications on his order to the employee. "Lots of mayo! Lots of ketchup! And Coke, without ice, ok?" The kids watched and listened wide-eyed. All I could think as I witnessed the exchange was "sometimes helping helps, and sometimes helping hurts!" I later tried to explain this idea to the children and how it is hard to discern real needs sometimes. Lightening the mood, we chuckled that instead of the Biblical "cup of cold water" we had given "a Coke without ice!" Thankfully, God knows our hearts and the outcome is ultimately in His hands!
|Alec, Ian and friend Tomas in the pool|
The fun didn't end with a movie on Alec's birthday, because our family had been invited to join three other families for a swim and cookout. Unfortunately Silas was sick, so he and I stayed home. Also the weather uncharacteristically turned gray and cold, not welcoming for a swim - but our intrepid boys and their friends didn't seem to mind! Alec had requested an "orange" cake for his birthday so we settled on buying a panqueque de naranja, a delicious cake with about a dozen layers of light orange filling. This was sent along to the cookout, which in typical Chilean fashion extended late into the evening. It was almost 11 o'clock p.m. when my husband and kids finally made it home!
|our kids with the sweet friends who extended this invitation|
The get-together was hosted at a nearby apartment complex where two of the families live. Pedro said other families were also cooking in the common area. When it came time to sing Happy Birthday, their hostess Joanne played on her ukelele and people nearby joined in the applause and well wishes for Alec. Yet another reminder of how much our Chilean friends and neighbors appreciate these special days! Alec arrived home with just enough time to open his gifts from family and head to bed. We hope his birthday moments were memorable and enjoyable - just as he is to us!