Exactly one month from today (July 17th) will be my birthday.
Normally, I’m not a big birthday celebrater. It’s just never been a big deal to me. I mean, of course, as a child my mother would do the whole Cuban-style birthday shindig with the 200 aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, Dad’s friend from Havana that he knew when he was 18, the lady that sits two desks over from my mom that brings pastelitos for breakfast, the neighbor that got the hookup on the A/C unit "que era de Sears", "la prima de Purita, que te cambio elpamper cuando eras una vay-bee"… you get the picture.
"Cuban-style" is not just a phrase I throw out lightly. I swear, there really is a "Cuban-style" when it comes to kids’ birthday parties. Usually this means that there would be some kind of dead animal – usually a pig – being roasted in a caja china somewhere in the ground in the backyard, while a folding table full of old men played dominos and smoked cigars. There would also be a perfectly laid out spread of a ginormous, merengue-topped cake from Vicky Bakery, flanked on either side by a huge bowl of chicken salad decorated with green peas and pimento slices (if you get your name spelled out in pimento, look out; it means you’re the shiznit!), and a large tray stacked with either bocaditos, cangrejitos, or mini-croquetas. If you were particularly lucky, you would get all three, PLUS a bottle of Pepsi (pay-cee). And there would inevitably be many photos forcibly posed around said food table. You wouldn’t even bother trying to get out of it, because they were "para mandarle a los primos en Matanzas."
Normally, while there would be very loud salsa or merengue playing in the background, the kids would run around chasing each other – hopped up on merengue-induced acid trips – until one of the Tias would yell at us to stop running before we hurt ourselves. This would be about the time we would decide that a tickle fight would be a more entertaining option anyway, at which point our moms would make us stop ("Dejen de jugar a manos que van a salir peliados!").
Opening gifts was not only reserved for the birthdayee, as every single cousin would jump in and start ripping open gifts right along with you ("Transformers! Awesome!!"). You knew if a gift was wrapped in a particularly nice paper because that’s the one Mami would open ever so carefully, making sure not to rip the paper so she could reuse it "para el regalo de Cuquita."
Once almost all the food had been consumed and leftovers divided onto paper plates, wrapped in aluminum foil casings the likes of which NASA had never seen, and handed to all the Tias ("para el desayuno, chica"), the tables would be cleaned up, music would be turned off, and kids would be gathered (most of us would be amassed in the living room by this time, still tweaking as we came down from the sugar high) and distributed to their corresponding adults. Then came the long process of saying goodnight. Cheek kisses and hugs and promises to call the next morning ("llamame, no importa la hora!") would abound, reminders from Mami to say goodbye to Tio Pepin and Tia Macuca and Olgita and her kids, and finally the night would come to a close. And your cranky, exhausted self would whine and complain as your mother made you go brush your teeth and put on your Holly Hobby pajamas and go to bed. And no, you could not play with that brand-new Tuesday Taylor doll now. "Puedes jugar mañana! A dormir!!" And in less than five minutes, you would be knocked out cold.
Now THAT’s a Cuban-style birthday.
(Thank you, Mami! Martha Stewart ain’t got nothin’ on you!)
And now, for the "2008 Birthday Wish List"
(Please note: cash and gift cards will be accepted in lieu of gifts. Just sayin’!)
1) This cute bag from Target:
2) These sandals from Old Navy (size 10. Yes, I have Gigantor foot. STFU.)
3) Tickets to see Cute Is What We Aim For, July 8th, Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale. And Warped! Tour, July 12th, Bayfront Park in Miami.
4) Red Velvet cake from… anywhere, I really don’t care. As long as it’s Red Velvet.