Our social life has been somewhat anticlimactic after Istanbul, where it seemed we met up with people from all phases of our lives. For over two weeks in Greece, Sandeep and I have only had each other for intellectual English conversation. We could have made more friends if we tried harder. However, between Vouliagmeni’s weekend-only population and our inclination to hang out on the beach most days, we just haven’t made the connections we did in other places.
Luckily my cousin, Keri, who was one of our Istanbul guests, came to Greece for Ava’s birthday. She missed the actual birthday by a day so we had no choice but to celebrate again.
This time we upped the stakes on our beach location. Not just any one of the gorgeous Greek beaches around Vouliagmeni would do. We wanted to scout out a private beach. The west coast of Attica has a road that hugs the coast like a smooth black ribbon laid against the turquoise waters. Most Athenians stay to this side of the peninsula given the easy access. That was all the excuse we needed to rent a car and check out the east coast.
It turns out there is a reason people don’t flock to the east coast beaches. They are hard to find and harder to reach. We had to turn off the highway and brave small gravel roads in hopes of finding a sandy stretch. Sandeep’s resilient driving, my gut driven navigation skills and Keri’s ability to entertain the kids in the back seat proved to be a winning combination. Our private beach came complete with a backdrop of a white and blue church perched over the water.
The combination of company and privacy made this one of our favorite days in Greece. This starfish that Kayan found probably could have done without the company though.
We’ve set high bars for birthdays on this trip. In January, I celebrated at my boarding school in Kodaikanal. In February, Kayan turned two on a beach in Goa. In April, we feasted on Sandeep’s baklava cake in Istanbul. Finally, today was Ava’s turn.
As we put Ava to bed tonight she said, “This was such a special day, you cannot even believe.” So what did we do to ring in Ava’s fourth year? We started off playing at a local playground, where she told Kayan exactly how to use the sea-saw.
The kids made sand birthday cakes on the beach.
We stuffed ourselves on calamari, grilled octopus, and barbounia.
The best past of today is that we sang happy birthday several times. The world is so connected now and, with media such as Skype, Ava got to celebrate with friends and family from around the world.
Those that know our family knows we aren’t into gifts. Turns out that’s just fine for a four year old. Ava’s gifts today were shells, ocean air, sunshine, good food and lots of love. That’s a great way to celebrate any year of life.
I’ll never forget what happened on May 23, 2008 at 3:11 in the morning. Ava arrived in the world and looked at me with an intensity that I think stopped my heart. I actually did pass out.
These past four years we have watched our still intense daughter grow into a confident, defiant and loving girl. Sometimes we don’t realize how quickly she’s maturing. Our conversation this evening tells me that even Ava has sensed this denial.
Ava: So Mama. Tomorrow I am going to be four and I won’t be your baby anymore.
Diya: What do you mean? Even when you are four, you will still be my baby. You’ll always be my baby.
Ava: But Mama. When I grow up I am going to be a nurse. I can’t always be your baby.
Diya: You can be a nurse and my baby.
Ava: You can’t tell other people that I am your baby when I’m grown up. Otherwise what will all the other nurses think?
Conversations like this make us foresee Ava as a teenager with more clarity than we can bear. They also make us so thankful to have this concentrated time to learn more about each other, to explore our world and grow together.
Ava has already mapped out every detail of her birthday tomorrow. She has directed the exact measurements and color of her cake and even decided exactly where to cut it. We have each been told what to wear. We’ll let you know how it goes, but we’re adamant that at the end of the day she’ll still be our baby.