A long banner that read “Feliz Cumpleaños”, and a table packed with cold cuts, cheeses, and other finger foods, balloons here and there. . . . Ana (Luis’ sister) and I had it all ready for a serious get together last Monday night. It was Luis’ birthday, the first one he would celebrate in Argentina in many years, and we weren’t going to let a small matter like it being a Monday night get in the way.
Luis didn’t know about any of this. Ana and I made plans in whispers, and called friends when he was out of the room. I was pleased when everyone said they’d be there. On Monday, Ana went off to buy the food, and later Ruben whisked Luis and the kids off to play at the pelotero (an indoor play area), so that we could prepare.
Now, there are a few important differences in the way Argentines have parties. In the U.S. I would invite 25 people to a party, and cross my fingers that 15 would show. In Argentina you invite 25 people to a party, and 35 come. Another difference is the concept of a surprise party. Argentines, as a rule, arrive at least an hour late for a party. If you arrive “on time”, you’d probably find the hosts still in the middle of the preparations. Surprise parties, as it turned out, are no different. And so it was that Luis was the first one to arrive at his surprise birthday party. Oh well. He was surprised, nonetheless, by the pure fact that we were going to have a party that he didn’t have to do a bit of work for. (In our family, Luis is the party planner) Nice.
People started showing up around 9pm. Our house quickly filled with friends from Luis’ childhood, from his university days, and family friends whom he hadn’t seen in years. No one came empty handed. Maite, the belle of the ball, was in top form in her blue party dress and white stockings. Lucas circulated the room, meeting folks (with a little prompting) and hugging those he knew. Bottle after bottle of red wine disappeared, including a home brewed bottle of white wine.
People didn’t start to leave until 11:00, and the last guests straggled out well past midnight. Lucas was still going strong, due to a long afternoon nap. Most everyone had to work the next day. But no matter. Friendship and fun come first in Argentina. You may be wondering, “and sleep? Isn’t sleep important? Being functional the next day?” As a gringa, I admit having a hard time understanding it myself. Luckily, I DON’T have to work in the mornings, so it works out just fine. I’m on sabbatical. Party on!