It was a sealed white envelope and even holding it to the light I couldn’t make out what was written on the card inside. “Now this is good quality paper,” I thought to myself. Although the front of the card was made out to La Familia Rivera and I am one of the members of the Rivera clan, I knew very well that either my mother or father should be the person to open it since it was sent to their home. But considering that it was addressed to the “family”, I opened it. As I was pulling out the card, a little piece of paper immediately fell to the ground. I picked it up and read, Registered at Babies R Us. “Oh, who’s having a baby now?” I thought to myself.
The card had a picture of the little Precious Moments boy wrapped up in a blanket, sort of like an arm in a sling. All four corners of the blanket were in the mouth of a stork that undoubtedly was getting ready for its delivery. A fit job for a bird who could very well be the Mr. Rogers in the bird world with his vest, newsboy style cap and glasses slightly tilted downward as if peering over the frame and not through the glass. Paired up with the delivery of a bouncing new baby, who wouldn’t think it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood? Of course, this is all part of the mythical world that plays into the euphoric state of having a child — overlooking what really happens during the delivery. But that is neither here nor there. Daniel and Yvette were having a baby boy and we were all invited for the celebration!
I put the card back in its envelope and left it on the counter, sat on the couch and wondered, “Do I even know who Daniel and Yvette are?”
“Oh, this is Alberto and Tata’s son” said my mother. “Ellos siempren vienen a las fiestas de nosotros. We should go.” Whenever my family is invited to any party for people I didn’t know, I usually don’t go. But, my mother always enjoys it when we accompany them, so this time I said to myself, “what the hell.” Besides, it’s a party. We knew the grandparents to be and I don’t mind baby showers. I sometimes think about how I would do mine. Caribbean-style baby showers always have food, music, dancing, and drinks. Of course, this one is in commemoration for people I don’t know and a baby who I will never meet, but that’s not really the point. The point is to rack up on gifts. I guess that’s the trade off. I get a party and free food. They would get a gift in return. It’s kind of sad when you really think about it, but it’s the truth.
The Day Of
My family always waits until the last minute to get gifts. The shower starts at 7pm. It is 5pm the day of the shower when my mother and I step into Babies R Us. We had already decided on the car ride over that the maximum amount would be a $50 gift from the entire family. For the sake of time, we could’ve simply given a gift card, but that would be the easy way out. We at least wanted to try and get an item off of the registry. That way if gifts are opened at the shower, people would know we made the effort. A gift card, although a gift, can represent lack of ambition and indifference. An actual gift means time was taken and some thought was put into it. Coño! We only have about 50 minutes left!
We printed out the registry and I began searching for all of the gifts that were $50 followed by circling the other less costly items on the list. The registry ranged from matching his and her baby diaper bags to “Best Mom and Dad” picture frames. Of course, all items essential for the baby. Among the sixty or so items listed, only one was priced at $49.99: some sort of soothing sound effect machine. “Yo no voy a gastar chabo en un soothing que se yo máquina” said my mother. “Find something else on the list,” she told me. I already knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task. Geez! It’s already 5:20pm. I thumbed through the sheets and found a Bundle-Me Light in Taupe priced at $24.99. What was a Bundle-Me Light? We didn’t know, but if we purchased that and paired it with the Glow Worm priced at $21.99, we would be all set.
We found a store representative who helped us find the Bundle-Me Light. There was only one left. It was a very thin blanket-like covering used for the baby while sitting in a car seat or carrier. The quality of it looked cheap. I noticed on the registry that the baby was going to be born in early October. Winter is just around the corner. My mother started to go on a rant on how first time parents don’t really know what is needed for a child and often get in over their heads selecting items they believe are cute overlooking the purpose. “During the winter, babies need to be kept warm”, said my mother. So we scrapped that as a possible gift and went on to the next.
We looked for about another 40 minutes, coming across items that were either sold out or that needed to be purchased on-line before we settled on a lamp, a receiving blanket, and a hamper all with cute farm animals on it. Not one of the items was from the registry, but at least the attempt was made. We also didn’t exceed our original budget. All the items were on clearance and the total came out to $48.34. Oh my goodness! It’s already 6pm!
We rushed back home. By the time we all showered and dressed, it was 8pm. We were late, but it’s common for guests to not show up on time to these types of events. I mean, it’s not like the baby would know the difference. Before my mother, my father, and I left, my mother and I put the items in a gift bag and stuffed it with tissue paper. My father grabbed the bag and on the way out the door asked, “What did we get?”
When we arrived at the party, it felt as if everyone turned simultaneously to look at us. I scanned the room quickly to see who I knew so I could begin the greeting process. Exchanges began of “Hi’s” or “Hola’s” accompanied with a kiss on the cheek depending on who the people were. It wasn’t an assigned seating type of event so while we are greeting folks, we were also simultaneously skimming the room to find an available space for us all to sit.
The grandparents to be and many older folks approached us to say hello, but the parents-to-be did not. I greeted some people I either had gone to school with or knew from around the way, occasionally interrupted by my parents, who wanted to present me to some old friend. “¡Tu eres una de las gemelas!” Many of them declared before giving me a hug and a kiss. “¡Que grande tu estás! ¡Yo te conocía desde chiquita!” This happened for a good 15 minutes until we made our way to a table I spotted near the bar. I’m pretty sure my father was pleased. In the Caribbean, both men and women attend baby showers, but majority of the men still hang out near the bar.
We sat down at a table covered with baby blue plastic, confetti, and, in the center, a round styrofoam platform with a plastic baby crawling on it. The baby had a bear sitting on its bum and strings tied around its neck that were attached to the balloons hovering over our table. A cake table across the room was filled with souvenirs, which I was sure would be handed out at the end of the party, and a DJ table was adorned with blue and white streamers. In a corner of the room were all of the gifts piled on top of one another and a basket for cards. The buffet line opened for food.
After we ate, I spotted an old friend. “Hi Ma, it’s been forever!” she said to me excitedly. “How you been?” Many of the conversations that evening would play out like this more or less. We would catch up on one another’s lives, with some occasional gossip surfacing. “Did you see that fulana is here and she is no longer with fulano, and look at what she’s wearing?” At one point, a cousin of mine turned to me and said, “There are about 6 people here who don’t like me, but that’s bullshit from a long time ago.” Another friend of a friend was there because her husband knew the man who was going to be the godfather of the baby. I spoke with many people that evening, and not once in any of the conversations was the baby brought up. At least not until I had a conversation with the cousin of the father be. “What do you think about the baby?” I asked him. “What baby?” he responded.
Eventually, the DJ turned off the music and spoke. “Alright, alright we need some volunteers, who’s coming up?” he said. I noticed a girl holding a spool of yarn. Only about 3 people went up. Ah, the measure how big her belly and the baby is game. It is the guessing game of all guessing games. Indirectly, it could also be a subtle cruel reminder to the girl of how big she has become.
“Come on, we need more people” said the DJ over the microphone. The mother-to-be smiled, but seemed embarrassed and the room slowly filled with the chatter of side conversations. It took about 10 minutes to get a total of 8 people to participate. I received a phone call from a friend. Our conversation lasted about 5 minutes; by then the game was done. “Who won?” I asked the person sitting on my left. “Who won what?” she responded. “Never mind.”
We danced the night away and it was suddenly midnight. The gifts were never opened and it was the end of the party. By then, some people had already left and others were at the buffet line serving some food to bring home. I saw my mother motion to me to come help her. She had already served herself one to-go container and was on her second. “Get what you like before it goes” she said to me. The grandmother-to-be came around and told people to take as much as they wanted. “Please, take what you would like. I have more trays in the back.” I then saw my father coming towards us from the cake table with a plate wrapped in aluminum foil. We left about 15 minutes later after we said our goodbyes and gave our thanks. Not once did we speak with the parents-to-be.
“It was a good party” my mother said as she ate some pernil in the car on the way back home. As I looked at the to-go containers I was holding and the cake, I concurred that it was indeed a good party.
The next morning, I logged onto my Facebook account and noticed I had a new friend request. The name was unfamiliar, but we had about 7 friends in common. “Must be someone I don’t remember” I thought to myself. I accepted the request and my jaw dropped when I looked at the page. Not only was it a profile that belonged to someone I knew, but it was a profile that was also an announcement. It said,
Welcome to Anna and Max’s Virtual Baby Shower page. As a member of our global family, we wanted to invite you to be a part of this important venture in our lives. Please feel free to leave a quote or any advice you may have for us. We have also listed our registries where the items can be shipped directly to us in Colorado for your convenience. Thank you. We are so excited!
Virtual baby showers. Huh. I wonder if they wouldn’t mind receiving a virtual baby gift.