Birthdays are not my favorite event to endure.
Don’t know exactly why as I’ll readily tell my age (so not a Southern thing to do). I’m proud to still looking relatively young for my age, although I’m long past getting carded for drinks. I love love LOVE to tell younger folks that I’m R-E-T-I-R-E-D from one job already. Yes, having a 3 year old helps belie the age genie. So does having great genes. (Thanks to my parents!) I know that I need to get past my personal birthday party phobia because I have a daughter who just loves birthdays and all that comes with it, especially cake frosting.
So yesterday, I quietly saw my birthday come and go. Now don’t feel sorry for me. I had a gorgeous bunch of roses that were personally delivered the evening before by a fabulous family who drove across the river as a favor to Hubby, who’s now safely where he needs to be for the next year. That was a fantastic surprise for both me and B, who’d just spent an afternoon running errands. She had a fabulous time playing with their son and I had a great time talking with grownups! All in all, it was a nice precursor to a birthday weekend.
Why am I a Birthday Scrooge?
I can count on one hand my most memorable adult birthdays. I’m just not big on celebrating myself so as a general practice, I usually don’t tell folks it’s coming up (although it is part of my FB profile). I do like getting emails and social media…must be the introvert in me coming out. I’ve spent most of the last decade’s birthdays apart from my loved ones, traveling for work or deployed on a ship or in some God-forsaken country. (By the way, one of the most memorable ones was watching night flight operations from about 100 feet away from where the planes touched down… no one knew it was birthday then either)
Avoiding Birthday attention by keeping busy
Anyway, since my birthday landed on a Saturday, I really didn’t have much planned other than run errands with B. I originally had plans to attend a Mothers Night Out event and even got a sitter (our dogwalker) for the evening over a week in advance. However, the night before, I didn’t get a chance to talk as long as I wanted with Papa on Skype and there were a couple o household details we needed to discuss further. So, I cancelled our sitter and backed out of the MNO so we could Skype with Papa. Since Skype to Afghanistan is pretty unreliable due to poor network connection, it was a good call on my part because he couldn’t get a good connection until well after the sitter would have been at the house.
After our fabulous new housekeeper left in the early afternoon, we headed out into the city to Am Brand, a local shopping center with a Hugendubel bookstore in search of German children’s books. We met up with a local teenager, R, who’s going to start coming by in the evenings to read to B some of R’s favorite German children’s books. The bookstore trip was worth every euro. B’s looking forward to looking through her new books (Hexe Lili, anyone?) and I think she understands that I can’t read them to her as well as R can. Once again, that will hopefully be worth every euro.
After we parted ways at the bookstore, R and her teenage BFFs went one way and we went wandering around the outdoor mall/plaza area. We’d been there once before after church; it was a rare Sunday when it was open (most German shops are closed on Sunday, except perhaps the ones in bigger train stations). Since it was a Saturday, it was a bit crowded but not too much. The little outdoor play area, with 4 rocking animals (I hesitate to say horses because they are anything but) and a nice spielhaus (playhouse) were full of children and their parents watching from a healthy distance. Since B speaks no German, it’s sometimes hard for her to chat with the German children, but body language is international, even with preschoolers. There was a young boy who was on a rocker and obviously did not want to get off, even though B waited patiently next to him for a good couple of minutes. Finally, his mother who was sitting behind him said something akin to “get off and let the little girl have a turn”. So B finally got her chance.
Afterwards, we wandered further and found a shoestore by the statue of St. Bonifatius. B’s feet have grown 2 sizes since we moved here in January. I’m still amazed at how little use some of her shoes get because she outgrows them or she doesn’t like them as much as others (one of her cousins is going to get a nice box of shoes along with some of her outgrown clothing too). There was a little girl playing her recorder for change near the statue and actually had a nice amount in the little basket at her feet. (I think her mother was standing nearby). B didn’t notice her at all. Something was drawing her to the shoestore. Once we got inside, we had to go upstairs to the childrens department, where she promptly found a cool slide built into the wall. After about 20 minutes in the shoe store and finally getting her off the play slide in the kids department to try on some summer sandals, she was ready to go home.
As we walked back towards the parking area, we passed a man literally sitting/lying on the pavement as people walked by him as he was in an area that was a busy walkway. He held out a yellow ballcap, a wordless plea for assistance. We passed by while others also walked by and ignored him, not even giving him eye contact. He looked a bit disheveled and definitely tired. I gave him a faint smile as I glanced at him and back at B, who was so mesmerized by the scene that she kept turning her head back to look. (She was more interested in this man than the little girl playing the recorder) Why was he sitting on the pavement with his legs stretched out in front so passersby were almost forced to walk around or else risk tripping? I couldn’t tell if he was injured or handicapped and wondered if B would say anything, as she’s prone to do, usually very loudly.
Flashback: We were in line at the register at the post exchange and she said “I smell something. Did someone utot?” Utot is Filipino for flatulence, passing gas, fart. To my chagrin, a Filipina who was behind us in the line getting some snacks said “Oh, I’m sorry.” I don’t know if I would have admitted it myself if I was guilty, but I think she was so shocked that B knew the word “utot” she didn’t have time to think.
We walked past the man with the yellow cap and got about ten feet. Here’s how the conversation went:
B: What’s that man doing?
Me: He’s asking for money.
Me: Because he doesn’t have any. He’s probably hungry.
B: (silence, wrinkled brow) Now I’m worried when I see the wrinkled brow because there’s no telling what she’s thinking. Ohhh-kay.
Me: (long pause, wrinkled brow, pursed lips, tilted head) Do YOU want to give him something?
B: Eyes light up. Yes!
So I opened up my change purse, gave her two 50 cent euro pieces and held her hand as she traipsed back to the man with the yellow cap who didn’t notice us return to him at first. She shyly smiled and placed the coins into his empty hat as he said “Danke”. I could have sworn there were tears in his eyes, but it could have been the sun in his eyes.
As we walked away, I bent down to give her a hug and asked “Why did you want to give him money?” She said quietly, “Because he didn’t have any.”
My only child showed true compassion for another person in need. That’s the best birthday present I could have. Maybe there’s hope for this Birthday Scrooge yet! PS: I do secretly love getting flowers from Hubby. His surprise parties are pretty awesome too. But don’t tell him that. He thinks I’m a Birthday Scrooge (my term, not his)