Yesterday was fiesta time.
Omar's nineteenth birthday, to be exact.
Throwing a party is a far different pursuit than attending a party. That axiom is universal. Whether you live in Lima or London.
I have been playing the role of party attender for decades. All you need are a couple of semi-exotic tales, a bagful of bon mots, and a few deep breaths to remember that even though your are sociable, but not social, you will get through the event without having a heart attack. Because, as Hemingway would say: "a true man would never have a heart attack in the presence of women."
But, throwing a party. That is a coronary of a different color. Putting together a birthday party is like producing a play. You need a stage. You need actors. You need props.
And then add in the slight complication that the birthday party is based in a different culture than your own. It has all the possibilities of being so bad that it might be a triumph.
I asked Omar if he would like me to rent one of the party halls, complete with a very loud band. The type of place that is frequented by 15 year old girls dressed up to look as if the Delta Queen might any day dock in town. He said, no. He wanted something more private. Just his family.
What I had not told him was that if I hired out the party, it would be far easier for me. But, he is a private guy. And the event would be just for his immediate family.
Now, if I were to use the term "immediate family" up north, I would be talking about my mom, my brother, and my sister-in-law.
Not so, in Mexico. Especially, for large families.
I had already sponsored a party at my house for Omar's family -- the week after he settled into to his room. Then, I thought we would be having a welcoming dinner for his mother and little sister.
But, I was wrong. In the end, about 17 people showed up. His mom, three sisters, and a band of nieces and nephews ranging from 3 to 12. The rib eye steaks I had purchased would not stretch to everyone, so Omar's sister, Alejandra, stepped in to cook up a large skillet of chicken a la diabla for the kids. I always stand amazed at how resourceful the Mexicans I know are.
This time, we planned better. The menu would be chicken cordon bleu and shrimp fettuccine. I received the shopping list the day before the party. And everything was ready when Alejandra volunteered to cook.
My house was not built with children in mind. I discovered that when Barco was a puppy. There are a cornucopia of fragile items to be pushed, held, and dropped. The reverse side of my paintings seemed to be beyond the temptation resistance level for most of the children.
And this is the first time my pool has been used with such gusto. A dozen children can add as much joy to a pool to be the equivalent to the amount of water they splash out of it.
If it sounds as if I was tense, I was. Until I remembered this house was built to be lived in. I tend to treat its Baraganesque lines as a museum piece.
So, I took those three deep breaths that I use for attending parties and got into the rhythm of life in the house.
The dinner portion of the party started around 7 and ended just after 10. Some of the adults then moved the birthday celebration to a night club in San Patricio. I made it back to my bed at 5 AM.
So, why was I helping Omar Ulises Castillo Macias celebrate his nineteenth birthday at my house?
The answer is easy. He is my son. We have tried different terms. My favorite was "ward" until I realized it carried a lot of Batman-Robin connotations. It also suffered from a fact problem. No court order is involved.
We have thus settled on "son." Because it is has the advantage of being true.
Not in the natural sense. He carries none of my DNA. And not in the adoptive sense -- yet.
I have known Omar for just over three years. Even though he could not speak much English, my friends, the Pittmans, hired him as a waiter in their restaurant, Rooster's. I would see him on my regular visits, and would be impressed by his energy, enthusiasm, and attention to detail. He seemed to be very ambitious.
This summer, when I returned from my Oregon trip, I received a message from Omar asking if I could do him a favor. He wanted to buy a motorcycle, but he had saved only part of the money. He told me he could repay me in December.
I asked a mutual friend who is fluent in both English and Spanish to meet with Omar and me -- where I told Omar I never loan money; it leads to bad relations. But, I have been known to donate money to good causes.
One of those causes is investing in people who have potential. Three of his bosses had talked with me and told me they thought he was a guy with a great future. Competitive. Intelligent. Ambitious.
So, I told him I would give him the money if he promised to continue doing well in school. I also committed to paying for his school needs through his three years of prepa (high school) and for his university education.
At one point, he told me he wished that he had a dad who was like me. I didn't think much about that.
But, I did on my Denmark trip. On the cruise back, I had a lot of time to consider weighty issues. One of them was the fact that I always wanted to have a son. The problem is that I lack any sense of commitment to acquire one through the natural process of marriage.
Omar sent me daily messages about work and school -- the type of communication a son has with a dad. And then it hit me. I had a ready-made son in Omar.
We talked about when I got back to Mexico. And, with a couple of false starts, Omar decided he wanted to move into the house in December. He has been here since.
It took no time for him to slip right into the role of being an upper middle class Mexican teenager. When I first met him, I knew that he wanted a future that did not involve spending the rest of his life in the small coastal towns where we live.
So, that is how Mexpatriate got a new cast member and how we are looking at spinoffs, like "Father Knows Barely Enough to Get By" and "My One Son."
It should be a good season. It certainly was a good party.