they pipe in the mariachi music here

i was sitting on my front steps this morning, enjoying the sun after a nice walk to the grocery store, when a woman and her two children (a small boy and girl) came up to me. it turns out it was the little girl’s birthday and they were set to have a party at the church across the street but the kitchen wasn’t open yet and the ice cream and cake they had in their car was about to melt. it was the kid’s third birthday for goodness sakes so i let them keep the cake and ice cream in our fridge for a couple of hours. i looked all over my room for suitable gifts for three year olds and after making a necklace that i knew i could never give up, i found one of those ceramic whistle-animals that used to be all the rage at the corvallis fall festival. it was a turtle with a hat on and it was tied to a blue ribbon. i wrapped it up in a piece of my old star sheet and made the little girl a card.

later, the woman and her son came back to get the cake and they invited me to the party. i brought my present and gave it to the little girl at which point it occured to me that maybe it was weird to give a stranger a turtle whistle and a card covered in metalic heart stickers. but i did it anyway. oh well.

at the party i felt extremely awkward. the woman who invited me knew very little english and i started to wonder if she had in fact invited me or if she had just thanked me or if it was one of those polite-type of invitations a person is supposed to refuse. i stared at all the pictures on the wall of the meeting room where the party was being held and then pretended to read the (what looked to be) history of the church which was posted in spanish. a couple little girls came up to me and stared at me and i felt like i was back in africa. i looked around. there was no beer.

after i had cast about as many nervous smiles as i possibly could, the cake-woman came over with a plate of tacos and a coke and led me to a seat at one of the fold-out tables. across from me a man was taking off his church tie and talking to the other people seated next to him. the man smiled at me silently. i smiled back. both of our smiles said, say something if you want but i won’t understand one single word of it.

i ate my tacos. they were delicious.

a woman with a tiny baby sat down next to me. i continued to sit and eat my tacos. my fork broke. i kept eating. finally, i figured i better speak or leave or start crying. so i asked the woman how old her baby was. 4 months, she said, in perfect english. obviously it was perfect. this is california not argentina. she told me she had 5 children and had lived here all her life. she asked what i did and how i knew these people. she introduced me to her 11 year old daughter who told me all about the college prep charter school she attends and the uniform she has to wear. i told her about when i once had to wear a uniform and seeing crocodiles in real life. she told me she’d never seen real crocodiles but she had been to nicaragua. before i left the party i gave my new 11 year old friend my email address and her mom gave me the times of the pentacostal services across the street. the cake woman thanked me for the gift and gave me the left over cake and ice cream. i guess i should probably learn spanish. i do like birthday parties.