Two guys named Pedro and I walked into the supermarket... Sounds like the beginning of a joke. But it wasn't at all. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a pretty momentous occasion.
The Pedros wanted to buy a cake. It was the birthday of one of them. "¿Cuántos años cumples hoy?" I asked him. "Twenty-one," he answered in English. I hadn't seen the one Pedro in some months and made note of how his English had improved.
Almost painstakingly, they picked out a cake, balloons, candles and soda. They didn't seem to know what they needed. Not outwardly (I didn't think, anyway), I was becoming impatient.
Pretty standard items, I thought. Why the hemming and hawing, I wondered.
Though not kids, they were chatting and giggling as if they were. I was not privy to the conversation because they reverted to their first language, chuj, a Mayan language from the highlands of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Still, I could tell they were having a great time, laughing and making fun (maybe of me, but I didn't care).
Why was the selection of the cake and the accoutrements was taking so long? My thoughts were interrupted when Pedro (the birthday celebrant) asked me if I would ask if they would write his name and 'Happy Birthday' on the cake. Of course, I said. Apparently, this was as important to him as the cake itself. Again, I didn't know why.
It wasn't until we were in line for the cashier that the "why" was revealed: Pedro had never had a birthday cake before, much less a party. And that evening, he was going to celebrate with a few of his friends - a party complete with balloons, cake and candles and some Sprite.
I didn't know.
I wish I did know so I could have organized a larger gathering, had a meal, brought a gift, or... But to the Pedros, it didn't seem to matter. They were going to celebrate the 21st birthday of one of them, and have a party for the very first time.
Watching them walk to the car with all the stuff and the smiles... Then I knew.