Recently my wife and I were invited to a birthday party for a ten year old. Because the child was inching toward becoming a “boy” after full nine years of continuous effort, the parents felt that we get an invitation to celebrate the occasion. We had been at the hospital waiting for his birth when his mother went into labor. Today, it was a lovely afternoon on a summer day in spite of a face mask, social distancing and being careful about touching anything and everything.

The boy was enjoying the day with all that attention focused on him while two of his younger siblings were romping around the house. The third one, a three month old, was blissfully sleeping in her crib. What struck me was the presence of people who were there. It was the love for the birthday boy that had brought them together even if individually they did not care about some of the other people.

The father's parents were there. “Grandee” had taken care of all the deviled eggs, sloppy joe and salad. “Grandpa” was in charge of all the drinks. Mom and dad brought a nice, decorated cake that was blazing with the number 10. They also provided chips and salsa. There were all kind of food and gifts from others. Each birthday card from adults was stuffed with best wishes and a greenback with the sole purpose of making him rich and famous in that order! While everyone, was busy with conversation and enjoying the food and drink at the same time I was also trying to make sense of the people present. There were four grandmothers; three grandfathers; two great-grandmothers; a host of cousins and aunts. Then there were the birthday boy's friends. Because of the coronavirus their parents were not invited to keep the number safe. It was a ‘family only” affair


Sociologists and social commentators tell us that the American family dynamic is individualistic and nucleus. Looking at the gathering I got a very different feeling that day. Some of the people in the gathering may have been detached from one another for quite some time. But it was the love for the child that had required them to forget their past and gather at the same place. His maternal grandparents were divorced when his mother was younger than him. Much water had passed under the bridge since then. The grandmother was there with her third husband. He was a familiar grandfatherly figure to the birthday boy and his siblings. The mother and her younger sister, after their parents divorced spent many evenings, weekends and sick days with their father. It was their father's second wife who cared for them, cooked dinner and packed lunch for them. It was she who went with them to Ocean City, Deep Creek Lake and Ski Liberty along with their father. For the two sisters, she was no less a mother than the one who brought them into the world. She was the birthday boy's “Oma.” As the story goes every birthday she gave the boy a sum equivalent to the year with a zero –$ 30 for 3 and $50 for five. On his eighth birthday “Oma” asked him, “how much would you get this year?” Without thinking he replied “eighty dollars”. It was the perfect sign of intelligence!

After 25 years with a biological daughter in college, “Oma” and “grandpa” went their separate ways. “Oma” has moved on. “Grandpa has his significant other who loves his children and grandchildren. The boy calls her by her first name. The bond of relationship has not yet hardened. But the loving relationship between her and the children is unmistakable. In the meantime, all of them have gone their own way and at this moment they were civil and friendly to each other. Whatever they felt within, to the outside each carried a demeanor of love and care. The birthday boy and his siblings loved it. That is what mattered the most. For me, it was something precious – a great American family drama.

Anadi Naik writes from Frederick. His latest book " BLOWN AWAY". He can be reached at

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