Birthdays. I never really celebrated my birthday much in the U.S. They had too much emotional baggage attached to them I guess. My mother used to forget mine. Once when I was ten she put my new 10 speed bike in the living room so I would see it when I woke up. Only it was the day before my birthday. She was furious with me when I told her. She didn’t believe me my birthday was the 24th not the 23rd, so she went and looked it up. I wasn’t allowed to touch the bike until the 24th. Birthdays were a little traumatic for me.
Then I grew up. Birthdays took on a new sort of trauma. Who would I spend them with? The older I got the more difficult this question became. Mostly I just left the country. It was easier than finding an answer. I spent many birthdays in foreign countries. One year in Paris I had a horrible lunch of raw seafood. Not sushi. Raw gross seafood. My French was not as good as I thought it was. Another year I spent in Barcelona dancing tango and having a wonderful dinner of tapas with new friends. When I worked in Mexico, my Mexican amigas threw me a wonderful bash at a salsa club. We drank a whole bottle of tequila. I am not sure I remember that night.
After I started coming to Buenos Aires, and eventually moved here, I discovered how much people love to celebrate birthdays here. It has nothing to do with age, everyone celebrates. Birthdays are a great reason to get together, to be with friends and family.
On Saturday we went to dinner, Sunday I opened the doors of my apartment to friends. I invited friends to come at 4:00 pm. It is always difficult to figure out what time on Sunday. Sunday is a day people usually spend with their family. I have lots of single friends, but most of them are out late on Saturday. Late here is 6:00 am Sunday.
My super guests Kathy and Peter decide to go exploring at Jumbo. Before they left they gave me a huge box of chocolates they brought from Canada. I am touched. I love chocolate. Anyone who knows me knows that. This box has all the good stuff you can’t get here like molasses chips, caramels, fudge. I can’t stop eating them. Chocolate for breakfast. Chocolate and Peets Coffee. I break out the Peets for my birthday.
Maximiliana knows something is up. Her crate is being moved into the bedroom. She jumps on top of it. I am not sure if she wants a ride or she is protecting her territory. She is a pretty funny dog. She would have to be. Look at who her owner is.
begin to ring at 10:00 am. “Feliz Cumple
Deby!” my friends are calling. The ones who cannot come are calling. Sharon texts me; my Australian sister. It is impossible to feel forgotten here. Even on a low day. When my back hurts, when things are not going
well, I always have days like today to remember.
In between phone calls, text messages, and emails, I am getting things ready for this afternoon. I run to the store several times. People keep asking what to bring. My long lost “brother” Gustavo calls. He tells me he will come this afternoon. I think we see each other every three years. He was one of my first friends in Argentina. I almost never see him in the milongas any more. We dance in different places. I probably saw more of him when I didn’t live here.
Kathy and Peter come home with many bags from Jumbo. I laugh at them “You liked that place?” They look a little guilty. Jumbo is more like a big North American supermarket. Foreigners love to shop there. I hardly ever go there. It is more expensive and there is nothing there I really want that I can’t get here in my barrio. I think shopping there is more of a “shopping experience” for some people rather than the Chinese markets.
Kathy pulls out a big bag that has a box in it. "We bought a blender to make smoothies," Peter says. "When we leave, we would like to give it to you, if that is OK." I am overwhelmed. A blender is something I have thought about buying and never got around to it. I cannot believe how generous these two are. I have had guests who have demanded I buy them bottled water or special soap and these guys buy me a blender. I give them both big hugs.
Peter goes to the kitchen with their bags. He asks me for a platter. He begins to arrange the most artistisc cheese and ham plate. I tell him he missed his calling. "If IT doesn't work out, you can always be a caterer." I tell him. I stuff more chocolate into my mouth.
I told people to come at 4. It is 4:15. Where are they? What if no one comes? How embarrassing. What if I gave a party an no one came? Well, we could eat cheese and crackers, pasta salad and chocolates. At least I know Gina will be here with her famous chocolate cake.
At 4:30 the door buzzes. Soon my apartment is filled with accents; Americans, Canadians, Australians, French, and of course Argentines. Everyone finds someone they can speak to. My Argentine friends are always amazed at foreigners who have learned to speak their language.
The table is filling with foods. Tons of sandwichitos - miga sandwiches. I love them. Jorge always brings them from a wonderful bakery in Boedo. Amanda brought hers from Casero. She looks lovely, elegant. She has a circle of people around her. When she isn't dispensing advice she is telling tales of the milonga and tango.
People keep asking me about the cake. I tell them that Gina has made me the best chocolate cake in Argentina. Chocolate cakes here are not that good. One day when I was sick, Gina brought me a slice of her chocolate cake. I told her if Javier would not marry her, I would, for her chocolate cake. He is going to marry her, so I had to settle for a birthday cake. (Joke...) I tell them Gina's chocolate cake is worth the wait.
At 6:30 Gina and the cake make a grand entrance. She apologizes. She got the time mixed up. When she uncovers the cake everyone's eyes get huge. I put candles that are a 2 and a 9. Everyone laughs. My friends insist I make 3 wishes. I close my eyes. I wish. I blow out the candles. Gina cuts her wonderful cake. I am dying...you do not get chocolate cake like this in Argentina. I feel honored to have this cake for my birthday.
The buzzer rings again and it is Samy. He has cupcakes baked by his friend Maddie. They are beautiful. They look like they came from a magazine. I cut one open and am treated to a rainbow of colors. Argentines who are usually conservative about food cannot wait to try them. My friend Sharon admits that she cannot stop eating them.
My friends want to know how I know each of them. I guess that is because they are such a diverse group. It is interesting how many friends I have from my blog. We either met because they read my blog or they are fellow bloggers. Some friends I met from tango, some were friends of friends. Gustavo is my oldest friend and Rosa is my newest. It doesn't matter. I value all my friends.
Soon my tango friends are talking about going to either Canning or El Beso. I would love to go to El Beso but I still have guests and I am undoubtedly in a sugar haze. I cannot wait to stop eating. They all take off including Katey who has never been to a milonga.
The doorbell rings again and it is Gustavo. He is coming from work. Other than a freak instance outside Canning one night I have not seen him in two years or so. I give him a big hug. I have always adored him. He was the first Argentine man I got into a car with. I remember giving him a big lecture. He gave me his club to hold. We are both geminis.
I bring him into the party and get him sandwiches. I don't have to worry about him. He speaks Spanish and English and will find plenty to talk about. Maxie in the meantime is not happy about spending her time in the bedroom. She had planned on being the life of the party. Unfortunately her and my definition of life of the party were not the same. Since I am bigger, I won. With fewer people I let her out.
Maxie comes into the kitchen to charm her way into getting food. My dog the canine garbage disposal. Her angelic face defies her tough street dog disposition. I don't think she will ever get over being abandoned.
Soon we are just Jorge, Amanda, Gustavo, Samy, and me. The discussion is lively. No milonga for me. It is already 2:30 in the morning. I look at my friends. I look at my messy apartment, full of half eaten food, dirty dishes. I think of how lucky I am to have such great friends. Happy Birthday to me.