Birthday celebrations are not very common in Uganda. Most Ugandans don’t know the exact day of their birth. These boys aren’t any different. Some of them know, some guess and some choose a day.
For us, birthdays are a big deal. It is a day to honor and celebrate a life that had never been appreciated before joining the home. None of the boys had ever celebrated a birthday. Fifteen, sixteen, even 17 years of never being celebrated. Can you imagine?
A part of our tradition celebrating is making everyone tell the birthday person why they love them. For these boys, no one has ever appreciated them in that way. For years, they never heard the reasons why they are good and lovable. They have heard a million reasons why they are trash and unworthy of anyone’s time, but rarely had they heard how great they are. So on birthdays, we bombard them with good things. The smiles on their faces, the joy in their laughter and I am sure there is blushing, makes me know our compliments are rooting themselves in their hearts.
We also have cake. What would a party be without cake? Sometimes we buy a decorated cake and sometimes we buy pound cake and I make a frosting. The boy gets to choose which one he likes better. Of course there is soda. It is a rare treat for the boys and they usually only get it on special occasions. And don’t forget the pineapple or other fruit. Pineapples are beyond delicious here, so if I am doing the shopping, it is almost always pineapple for the fruit. But there are also bananas or papaya, oranges or watermelon.
We have a ton of fun on birthdays. They are some of our best days. The happiest days. The days where the boys are finally kids again. The days where we celebrate new lives, changing lives, actually making it another year to reach an age they never thought they would make. Celebrating the chance at a future. Celebrating life like it should have been celebrated all along.