Mother, Father and son-daughter

Nadine has seen the ultrasounds and has read the results of all the tests the doctors do to give children an early niche in our statistical system. Stephan has read the baby books, weighed names and those family that think about it suspect he's found a favorite. But the child's great grandmother is knitting a yellow and green jumper. You see, the parents won't let on whether it's a boy or a girl.

We somehow forgot Stephan's birthday in the midst of these weeks when we're thinking so often of them. Nicole and I realized almost a week late, and we're fumbling around feeling terrible--sending flowers and stammering that we got too caught up to track more than one big day at a time. We should have done better. Germans take special days seriously, and something's wrong if a minute past 12 midnight on your birthday eve doesn't find a relative or two hitting busy signals as they call seconds late with best wishes. I'm exaggerating, but not much.

Floridians have opposite instincts--my family has been known to schedule birthday parties on proximate or even distant weekends from the calendar day, and I am pretty sure that one year I gave my sister a gift certificate IOU that she never redeemed. It's not that we don't care, its that we have an ingrained and cultivated aversion to expecting a fuss to be made over us. We all love each other, respect each other, would do anything for each other, but somehow feel that pulling together a celebration would inconvenience someone somehow. Perhaps it's living in Central America that made us guard against being disappointed by not expecting such excess. And maybe we're growing out of it. My Dad threw a surprise party for my Mom last year and she turned around and pulled together my sister's friends from all around (we flew in from DC) for a night together in her honor this February. Not on the EXACT birthday, of course, but it is a start.