Good morning dear friends!
Today Nicosia has blue skies again after a few weeks of clouds and rain and I feel invigorated! I don’t mind cold weather (I love it actually), and I like rain too, but I need the light of the sun and blue skies to be truly happy. Maybe that’s because skies in Cordoba, my home city, are always deep blue and, looking at blue skies makes me feel a sense of connection with my own home.
These past weeks have been really hectic. As I mentioned before, my children, Luka and Zoe, started nursery school one month ago…and as it very often occurs, two weeks into their new schooling experience, they got a ear infection! There seems to be a really strong bug going around, because all children and even the teachers got it. The first round of antibiotics didn’t do the trick, so we had to try with a second one, and it took them 10 days to be ready to go back to school. What was even worse was that my husband and I also got a really bad cold (we are guessing the same bug), so there was a concert of coughs going on in our house all night long. But now we are all recovered and very appreciative of our good health! We are also giving the children vitamins and probiotics to reinforce their immune system, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that they won’t get anything new (in the short run, at least).
But today’s post is not about me, or my immediate family. It is about a very special little girl, whom I love very, very much and whom I consider my “niece of the heart”. Olivia Valentina (Oli, as we call her), is the daugther of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mariana. No, scratch that, Mariana is not really my friend, she is more like the sister I never had, a “sister of the soul”. Mariana is the person I shared dreams and hopes with since we were 16 years old, the one person that was as passionate about books and history and literature as I was, the one with whom I buried a time capsule in the backyard of our country-side home when we were 17 , the one with whom I wrote a little book that maybe one day our children will read, the person that had a penpal and liked studying, just like me. Mariana is the magical being that showed me the meaning of true friendship and someone I have missed deeply during these 7 years that I have lived abroad. The thing with being an expat is that we are bound to miss those we love, and we carry the burden of knowing that, many times, we are not present during our loved ones special and important moments. Argentinian author Hernan Casciari uses a metaphor from football (soccer) to explain it and says that ” pain and party, tragedy, triumph are the same when you’re away. Not being able to cry with your loved ones when something horrible happens, not being able to celebrate with your people when something wonderful happens puts you immediately in offside“. He is right.
Fortunately, last year it was different. Last year, our trip to Argentina coincided with Mariana’s pregnancy and that made us both so very happy. I could not stay until Oli was born and I have only seen her cute, adorable face through pictures, but having had the chance to hug my friend during such a life-changing time, and to talk to Oli through the belly is something that I am deeply thankful for.
The original idea was to take advantage of this trip to organize Oli’s baby shower, so I started planning it pretty much as soon as the pregnancy was announced. But once we arrived in Argentina, we learnt that Mariana’s pregnancy was experiencing some complications and, during our second week in the country she was put on full bed rest. The baby shower no longer being a possibility, I decided to prepare Oli and her mummies a special present to celebrate her life: a “party in a box” which they could use either for a “sip and see” after Oli’s birth, or maybe even for Oli’s 1st birthday.
The “party in a box” used the same theme as the baby shower I had originally planned: The tree of life. Mariana and I always liked ancient mythology and literature, and used to write listening to Loreena McKennit’s CD The Mask and the Mirror, which contains a song called The Two Trees, based on the homonimous poem by WB Yeats, which reads as follows:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee.
There the Loves a circle go,
The flaming circle of our days,
Gyring, spiring to and fro
In those great ignorant leafy ways;
Remembering all that shaken hair
And how the wingèd sandals dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.”
When I listened to this song, I also remembered the myth of Yggdrasil, and how the idea of a Tree of life is shared by different mythologies and the baby shower’s theme was born. I contacted my dear Laura ( from Delicious Tea) and commissioned her to design the party printables, and she did the most beautiful work I could have imagined. Laura designed a lovely, blooming tree, with leaves in different colours to represent the diverse ways in which Oli is loved, and this tree was included in all items. She also designed a banner with the baby’s name, which instead of the traditional triangular shape uses leaves in the same colour palette as Oli’s tree of life.
The tree above was made from a branch of a tree from my mother’s garden, so that it would grow together with Oli, accompanying her. The little tag cards are for guests to leave good wishes for Oli’s life and to hang them on Oli’s wishing tree, so that she would be able to know, when growing up, that she is, and has always been, deeply loved.
The box also included some decorations, such as two little wooden trees and a rose paper pompom, as well as some of the items necessary for a dessert table, with food labels that played with the party’s theme.
The sweets and sugar decorations included “Flowers of Joy” (sugar flowers to decorate cupcakes with), with their corresponding cupcake cases…
…”Enchanted dew” (little meringue cookies)…
…”Prosperity leaves” (bamboo skewers, to insert chopped fruits in)
… “Love seeds” (chocolate coated almonds)…
“Branches of Life” (Branch chocolate)
…as well as all of my favourite recipes in a little hand-written notebook, that could serve as Oli’s first.
It also included drink tags for different kinds of Lemonade, with coordinating twine, as well as personalized paper cups with matching paper straws, paper plates and bamboo spoons…
The box also had the tags for souvenirs, but not the souvenirs themselves (mixed flower seeds, to celebrate life by giving back life to the Earth) because I didn’t know when the party was going to take place.
I also punched lots and lots of flowers in different shades of green and pink , which could be used to craft garlands, piñatas or other decorations.
As a special present, we created a series of postcards for guests to write love notes for Oli. These postcards, when put together, formed a A3 sized poster (which could be hanged in the baby’s bedroom) with the inscription: ” Your existence makes us very happy”.
Finally, I added three bibs, just because one can never have enough of them with a young baby!
I placed all items in a box, and travelled with it, the tree and the pompom to my friend’s house, to deliver the party and have a quiet afternoon of mate and long talks, like in the old times.
Queridas Mariana, Pao y Oli: las quiero con el alma! Que esta nueva vida juntas, que recien empieza, las llene de felicidad hoy y todos los días de su vida.
Have a lovely weekend, dear friends!