Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy Birthday

When I met Marie she was four years old.  At least that's what we thought.  Her mom had lost the documents she got at birth so we really had no way of knowing. When I came back and took her this year, she just looked older. I decided that she was probably around 5 by now.  Then she lost a tooth.  And my dental hygenist friend said that her six year old molars were fully in.  What?!!?  She's six!?!?!  She's wearing 4T clothes!  And she still can't count to 10! I started panicking a little bit.

Since I didn't know her birthday, I had to make one up.  I decided on August 8th since that was she originally came to live with me. It also gave her an age of 5 1/2 instead of 6, which I appreciated.

A few weeks ago I started the legal process for her adoption.  It will actually be a transfer of legal custody for a year and will then move to adoption.  When I met with the man from the Social Welfare office, he went through the steps that need to be taken, and one of them was to get a birth certificate.  I went with a Sierra Leonean friend and he just kept nodding to all of the steps, but in my mind I thought, "What are the chances that her mother is going to have a birth certificate!?!!?  She was probably born at home and mom already told me that she'd lost all of the information!!!"  When we got out of the meeting I called her mom and sure enough, she had no idea.  No day, no month, no year.  The next day she called me to tell me that she remembered that it had been a Thursday.  Awesome. Very helpful.

I went to her village to talk with the town chief. My friend was sure that he would have some information because he was literate.  I, on the other hand, wasn't convinced that just because the man could read and write he would remember when a little girl was born, several years ago.  Nevertheless we went.  And we were both right.  The town chief didn't remember when she was born, but he said that the TBA (traditional birth attendant) should have the records.  A couple hours later he called with the date.  April 24, 2008 10:45 pm.  This call came on April 19th.  My little girl was still 4!!!!  Yeah!!!  Also, I had a real birthday for her!! (I'm still confused about her 6 year molars, but I learned that kids can lose their teeth early....)

I started prepping her on what a birthday was.  We'd celebrated one of my teammate's kid's birthday a month ago and she remembered the song.  We started the countdown to her birthday...but I think she was most excited about the song.  The night before her birthday my roommates and I were decorating the house and I remarked that I felt more excited than I've felt for my own birthday in a long time!!  Valentina made a crown for her with a big "5" on the front.  We put up some streamers, balloons, and threw up a couple of signs.

The next morning I got up early to attempt my hand at making some donuts.  My sister makes them and they're amazing.  I had to do a practice one to realize that I didn't put enough oil in, and sort of sauteed it instead of frying it. Oops.  Also, my roommate found a staple in hers.  Don't ask.

When Marie got up we were excited for her to see the house all decorated and to wear her crown.  She woke up and looked around and said "For my birthday?"  Yup!! I remembered the torture of seeing the wrapped presents sitting on the kitchen table and the agony of waiting all day to open them.  I decided she should suffer as well (aren't I a good parent?) so I pointed out her gifts, told them they were for her, but that she would have to wait until later to open them.  It didn't really work though because she didn't ask about them again all day.  Maybe I was just an especially greedy child!!  We put her crown on,  and she started crying.  She wasn't thrilled about wearing it.  We snapped a picture quickly and then let her take it off. However, it only took a couple other kids being really excited about wearing the crown for it to quickly become the coolest thing ever.

The song. She loved the "Happy Birthday" song.  She was singing it to herself all day.  Sometimes before we eat, instead of praying we will sing a song that she loves called "Tell God Tenki (thank you).  At lunch time we were sitting around the table and she reached for all our hands. However,  instead of singing the song we usually sing, she started singing "Happy Birthday." Might have some work to do there.

Now my dilemma   I've lived here for awhile and have noticed a couple things.  It seems that either birthdays are basically ignored, or they're done up in a big way! (The party for a little one year old I know had music playing so loud we could hear it a quarter mile away). I wanted something in the middle.  It seems that everyone in this village knows Marie, so I knew that if I invited a few of her friends, I would quickly offend everyone else that I didn't invite.  I was also afraid of offending adults that I'm friends with.  I got some advice and decided we would just do a quiet little get together in the afternoon and that would be the end of it.  Well, the day slipped away from me a bit and evening time rolled around. We often have visitors in the evening, so I just prayed that we wouldn't tonight.
A girly dress for a girly girl

We made her special birthday dinner (pasta and tuna from a box) and then had her cake.  She was ready to move on to presents!!  She loved the presents but I think was equally excited about the unwrapping part.  After presents we watched Cinderella and then it was off to bed.  I'm still not sure that she really understands what a birthday is, but regardless we had a good day! :)  Thanks to everyone for all the well wishes you sent!!

1 comment:

  1. Emily, you are a good momma ~ your stories make me want to hug my kids! Thanks so much for sharing!