Happy Birthday Mariza & Alex

Today we had the Mariza/Alex birthday party.    They were born two years and two days apart.  Mariza came down from Baltimore for the event.  We went to Outback Steakhouse and had some cake.    They are both full adults today, as Alex has now turned twenty-one.   It has been a long time, but  the time flew by when I look back.

Mariza was born in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.  She was born on a hot fall day (seasons are reversed down there).   The hospital was a nice place built by Germans many years ago.   It was on a beautiful street lined with jacaranda trees.    But it was old fashioned.   It didn’t have air conditioning and the windows didn’t have screens, so it was not the most comfortable place.  Mariza was very blond as a baby.  Well… blond but not much hair in general.   Chrissy sometimes taped a bow to her head to tell the world she was a little girl.  Mariza lived her first two years (almost) in Brazil and her first words were Portuguese.   Brazil was a good place for babies and toddlers.   The Brazilians are very child friendly and there was easy access to play groups and day care.  

Below – I carried the kids on my back all over the place.  This is Mariza in the Brazilian pine forest.

On the down-side, there were shortages.    Mariza was born about the same time the Brazilian government set up the Cruzado Plan, which imposed price controls.  Predictably, goods disappeared from the store shelves, including pampers, baby formula and related products.    Big bugs were annoyances.   They have giant tarantulas in Porto Alegre and we were careful that Mariza didn’t try to play with them. 

We had a little pool on the roof of our apartment.   Mariza always liked the water and was never afraid of it at all.  She couldn’t actually swim, however, so we had to watch her closely. 

We chose a Brazilian name for Mariza, since she was born there, but we spelled it with a z instead of an s (Marisa) as they do.   Brazilians pronounce the  “s” more like the way we do “z” (not exactly of course, but closer).  For example, they spell their country’s name Brasil.  We hoped that people would pronounce it with the “z” sound, as they do in Brazil.   Most people still call her Marissa at first, however.

Alex was born in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.  He is the only one of the three kids born in the U.S.  Chrissy and Mariza had to go up to the U.S. earlier.  I had to stay down in Brazil and finish my work there.   They stayed in Wisconsin with Chrissy’s parents.  Chrissy’s sister in law, Barb who is a nurse, was very helpful.  I was in Washington for Norwegian training, but I was lucky enough to get to Wisconsin exactly the right time for Alex’s arrival.   He arrived right on time and right fast.

Alex came to us during a disrupted time.  I was in Norwegian training and we were on TDY in Washington living in temporary housing.   By the wacky definition they use today, we were “homeless.”   All joking aside, it was stressful to not have a permanent place.   Alex was a good baby.   Our apartment had only a bedroom and the living room.  Alex had a crib in the living room, so he was always with the family.

We moved to Norway when Alex was six months old.   Getting to a “permanent home” (we stayed there four years) helped calm Chrissy and me and it had an effect on Alex and Mariza. 

I used to take Alex to the swimming pool at the NATO element as Kolsas, not far from Oslo.  I would wrap him in water wings and floaters and he would paddle around the pool.  He developed a lot of endurance.   

We had a townhouse in Norway, with a big room downstairs that opened onto a small yard.   That room became the playroom for Alex and Mariza.   Alex always loved dinosaurs and teenage mutant ninja turtles.  He seemed to like these things before he could talk.   We had a lot of educational tapes.    I suppose he saw it on them.

Norway is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but it is a strange place for a new baby because of the winter darkness and the midnight sun.   In the middle of the summer, it never gets completely dark.  It was hard to get the kids acclimatized.  During the summer they did not want to go to sleep until it got dark and it never got really dark.

Below is Alex at Gettysburg in 1993. He has always been interested in history.

As I said, all that was a long time ago.    It is a strange wonderful thing being a parent.    Past and present mingle.  When I look at the kids, I see them as they are now, but I also have images and feelings accumulated over the previous decades.   

I didn’t have a blog back when Mariza graduated from UVA and I didn’t make a web page. We are lucky in Virginia to have such a good public university system and I was glad that she went to Thomas Jefferson’s university.    It is not easy to get into the University of Virginia these days and I was proud that she got in and thrived there.

Below is Thomas Jefferson looking over our family.