SALVADORAN BABY SHOWER
It is looking as if we might totally miss the event altogether. The plane de-icing in Harrisburg makes our departure very late; by the time we arrive in Atlanta, our plane for San Salvador is already boarding, and we still need to RUN, RUN, RUN, to catch the train to another terminal to get to our gate. We barely make it when they are still calling group 2 passengers and we are group 3 – loads of time left.
Why are we so stressed today? The opportunity to participate in a Salvadoran celebration, whether a wedding, baptism, or whatever, has been on my bucket list for some time now. This moment finally arrives for us, not by chance, but by design. We both are flattered and delighted that this baby shower is scheduled around our availability. In fact, it is scheduled for the night we land in the country, so we go straight to the hosting house from the airport with our baggage and wearing our winter clothes from the 11-degree weather we leave behind into the 94-degree San Salvador heat.
Our friend is waiting for us at the airport with the caution, “I was at my doctor’s, and I’m not supposed to drive.” He has been lined up to drive us several days through our schedule as well as to translate for us. Oh dear. This could be a bad omen for our trip.
We arrive in the general area of the house we are looking for and circle the block numerous times until I say, “I think she was standing out in front,” and after another phone call and another ride around the block, sure enough it is our contact person and her friends. All jump into the vehicle, and we head into a gated and guarded area where the shower is to take place.
The guest-of-honor and friends throwing the shower all are involved in decorating the living room of the house. We help tape the yellow and blue balloons to the wall, and all fold two colors of crepe paper strips together into small squares in a zigzag effect resulting in a 3-D garland which we tape over doorways and windows. I help wrap a couple piles of gifts to place on the table pushed into the corner. The stark room now pleasantly transforms into a cheery, colorful, festive ambience.
The event is scheduled to begin at 5 PM but that is a mere suggestion. Guests arrive over a wide range of time after that but some may be coming after work and city traffic is unpredictable. The youngest of three daughters of one of the guests engages me in a balloon toss game. She speaks English. Everyone speaks Spanish except them, Don and me, and we certainly do not expect all conversation to be translated for our benefit. We are content to observe.
We meet some of the guests as they trickle in. When groups of them come at once, it is harder to keep up with the introductions. We don’t know their relationships with the mom-to-be or whether the relationship is with the organizer of the shower. One prominent older couple there is our age, if not older, and perhaps is there to support the young mom, knowing the tough challenges that she has ahead of her.
Take-out food consisting of two small deep-fried items per person, a container of slaw (curtido), and a large pitcher of a drink arrives.
Let the games begin. Our way of introducing ourselves to one another is to stand in a circle and go around the room saying our first name and making up a silly motion to it which everyone then says and imitates, as in “Simon Says.” It lightens our moods and we all laugh. Then each person receives a piece of paper with the instructions to write down our dreams for the young mom and dreams for her unborn son. We then turn them in and one by one tell her verbally what we have written. Some people seem to write a chapter of a book. I’ve met this girl only this afternoon and know a little about her but enough to say, “I wish you continued courage, stability, and safety. I wish for your son good health, happiness, and for the two of you together lots of fun.” Then we return to the lightheartedness, and three volunteers are requested. Each one is given a small baby bottle filled with red juice. The one to drink it through the nipple fastest wins the prize: a Salvadoran cross.
By now it is getting dark, and we are both weary from our long day of travel having begun at 3:15 AM to leave for the airport. We ask our hostess if she will call us a safe taxi driver to take us to our guesthouse.
We leave before any gifts are open. I hope the mom-to-be likes the gifts I chose for her. By my grandmotherly standards they are a variety of fail-proof infant and toddler items.
Despite my not being able to understand the language, it is clear by the sentiments that this mom-to-be is surrounded by many caring people tonight. The sincerity is palpable despite the language barrier.
We appreciate the opportunity to attend this event arranged with sensitivity to our schedule. The mom is due to deliver in two weeks. She lives in a precarious situation, and we pray her life and the life of her child will be safe.
We will follow-up and check in on her from time to time.
ADDENDUM: It turns out timing was impeccable. The baby was born the day after the shower!