This is, in a way, her first birthday as well. Let me explain: As many of you know, they do not track or record birth days in Ethiopia. Meaning, a specific day or date of birth is typically an educated guess, at best. As a child gets older, and if that child has lost their parents and known relatives, this day fades – if it was ever marked at all. This sounds sad, but over there it is not. Its not a part of their culture, this tradition. But as we all know, its a very big part of ours.
And so, after much speculation, discussion, a little investigation, a bunch of translation….we have come to a day, agreed upon by all: Marta’s birthday. Today. November 11. She is 13 today.
This is a big day for all of us. Our girl’s first birthday. And yes, there will be streamers and candles and songs and cake and ice cream (Ok, ice cream cake). There will be her favorite foods: pasta and salad…and ice cream. There will be great swaths of pink, on the table, the cake, the streamers, the wrapping…..as many surfaces and items we can find, we will all don pink hats and shirts, even the dog….ok, maybe not. But you get the idea. It will be festive.
We will sing and we will take pictures. And give many many birthday hugs. But we will also keep it low key in a way too. Because just like a literal first year birthday, sometimes it can be overwhelming. So we will sit at the table for dinner in our usual spots. Eat her favorite meal, made the same way by mom. And we will still have ESL tutoring and get the laundry done. Because even though the mundane bits of life go on, that underlying crackle of pink specialness can still glow through the day. Because that is the beauty of a birthday….that quiet special sense that you are special and you have those who think so too. It is a day to mark with that sure knowledge. And so we will try.
Our Marta Therese on her first and thirteenth birthday:
You are a joyful spirit.
A simple happy complicated girl.
You love to sing and laugh at mom sing.
You love to laugh at everyone else dancing.
One day we will get you to dance too.
You are a beauty.
Someday you too will know you are a beauty too.
A good chunk of your beauty shines from inside.
This is the truest kind of beauty.
You truly deeply love the your faith, God, and the Mass.
And that inspires.
You love to laugh.
You love to play.
You can be silly as a small child.
You can be as demanding as a small child.
And as moody as any teen, ever.
You are impatient and stubborn.
You are helpful and compassionate.
You hate math.
You love pink.
You are working so hard on learning english.
But you really hate math.
Almost as much as you hate learning to tell American time.
You love to write cards to your Grandma.
And to sew quilts of your own design.
And you do not want any help, unless the machine busts.
You love pink, in anything and everything.
You love pink ice cream, yogurt, pjs, sweaters, socks, pens.
And a dash of cheetah print might be nice too.
You love football.
It could only be better if they players wore pink, maybe.
You are my only kid who is excited for braces.
And yes, they are pink!
You have been home almost four months.
It feels like you just got here.
It feels like so much longer.
We are all slowly growing toward and in each other.
It’s a long process.
But it can’t be rushed.
It’s kind of like this birthday:
It’s marked by a 13, but its new and old at the same time.
Everything about us, each other, is new to each other.
But so many things too, are old in their way.
Mom dad daughter sister family.
It’s age old.
And brand new.
Just like a birthday really should be.