Story of a Big Little Party

May 11, 2018

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.  

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