I’m going to Seaside, Oregon today to celebrate my aunt’s 90th birthday. The ceremony will be a display of traditional Brazilian culture. I expect my cousin David will be cooking pork for this gala event. He rides with the Harley Motor Riders, sponsored by Harley Davidson in the state of Washington. The ceremony will be held at one of Seaside’s prominent Community Centers. My aunt swims once a week near the center which is an example of her spryness. Sheila, my aunt’s oldest daughter, and my cousin Geno’s daughter Michelle, have planned this event. Sheila is a high school Spanish teacher and she speaks three languages: Spanish, English, and Portuguese. Since our mom’s native language is Portuguese, I expect to catch some calypso lingo coming from the mouths of my Brazilian cousins as they engage in their joyful conversations.
When I approached the center, 30 people and their children strolled in with hugs and kisses for Didi. A friend of my aunt’s whom I hadn’t seen in forty-eight years came with her daughter from Salt Lake City, Utah. The last time I saw her I was teaching her the “jerk” in my hip hugger and bell bottomed pants. She remembered me ironing my long red curly hair over her ironing board with an iron. She said that the Great Salt Lake where my sister and I had swum when we were young, was polluted by the brine shrimp in the lake and had stunk up the whole city. Angelo, where the city workers brought white sand to an island, was the only place people could swim now. A concert of Crosby Stills and Nash, The Young Bloods, and Kenny Loggins entertained a crowd of white haired ladies like me in the heart of the city at Red Butte Gardens — a concert venue and part of the University of Utah campus.
At the Seaside Community Center, the tables were decorated with framed pictures of my aunt at various stages of her life. They were arranged in triangles around a candle. The pictures were on vellum paper which allowed the candle light to shine through from behind, giving them a warm glow. For Aunt Didi’s occasion we sang “Happy Birthday” in English and “Happy Birthday” in Portuguese — “Parabens, Para Voce,” while Latin music played in the background.
Sheila skyped our cousins in Brazil and one of the cousins showed her dog through the computer screen. My sister gave my aunt a pastel blue bird house shaped like a bird, and she received a singing Teddy bear that made a wish and blew out a candle from me.
There are always challenges in our lives that bring happy days to an end. When Tia Didi went home after the party, her favorite companion, Allie, a pigeon with a broken wing that she cared for for years lay dead on his cage floor.
My portrait of my Brazilian Aunt Didi when she came from Brazil to the States.