Westward Movement

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sapo Verde

Today would have been my mom's 72nd birthday. It was also B's 10th birthday. What began as an emotionally difficult day was eased as B walked in this morning with a shy grin. I'd been teasing her all week about entering the "double digits." Yesterday she had an off day, and I suggested it was because it was her last day of "single digithood." She agreed, and today told me she was ready to take on the double digits. She is more than ready!

For as long as I can recall, my class has celebrated birthdays in the same manner. The birthday boy or girl sits on the tall stool in front of everyone. He or she shares their new age, and also how they know how old they are. I tease them that their birth certificate may have errors, and they figure out their age based on the year of birth. A little math outside of math class never hurts! The way a child plans to celebrate is shared. More than one student has shared with me that celebrating his or her birthday in the classroom with me and with peers is the only celebration they've had. This saddens me, and also reminds me how important it is to take a few moments to celebrate. Those few moments last a lifetime for many.

My class speaks along with me as we present the child with a birthday pencil, stickers (this year a birthday rubber bracelet), and three candies to celebrate el pasado, el futuro y el presente. A special question is asked by another student: "If you had $100, tax-free, can't spend it on world peace, have to spend it selfishly, what would you buy?" They love it when, if they say shoes and clothes, I applaud, and if they say video games, I groan! 

My favorite part of this celebration, prior to my final act of air spanking each student, followed by a pinch to grow an inch, and a squeeze as I say "happy birthday, sweetie," is the singing of a very special version of Happy Birthday. When I first began this tradition, oh so many years ago, my class was filled with several newcomers to this country. Many had never heard the English version of happy birthday, and must have assumed the lyrics below:
Sapo verde to you
Sapo verde to you
Sapo verde dear _____
Sapo verde to you!

To this day, this is what we sing. The direct translation is "green frog to you." My mom loved frogs. She got a kick out of hearing this version. So ... sapo verde, mom. And sapo verde, B. 

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