Today, my beautiful niece Camila Mabel Méndez-Báez turns 5 years old.
Curiously enough, she shares her birthday with a less appreciated Cuban in the family: Fidel Castro. When she was born I joked to my sister Rosita (her mother): “You should name her Camila Fidelia”. Only her immense love and respect for me and her well developed sense of humor spared me the stinging, quasi perfect red pentagram of a slap on the face. You just don’t joke of things like that in Miami!
By today’s standards and expectations, Camila is a “big” girl now. She already “graduated” from pre-kinder and is able to count to 100 and do simple mathematical calculations, sings the alphabet both in English and in Spanish, draws actively and beautifully, answers the phone with astonishing clarity and panache, gets up with her mother at 6 a.m. so that she can wash up, have breakfast and be dropped off at school and is able to maintain rather very “mature” conversations with her elders.
This ease of Camila and many of today’s young children to conduct such mature dialogues astounds me and “freaks me out” just a little. At her age I was still trying to say “otorrinolaringólogo” in my native Spanish (ear, nose and throat doctor, by the way) and was able to ask my mother, grandmother and aunts without hesitation: “what’s for lunch or dinner?” or state, very articulately: “my stomach hurts and I have the runs after eating so many mangos...” But not even in my most serious moments was I so preoccupied as Camila and so many children today as to the problems of family and daily life. Could that concept (urban legend?) about the Indigo Children have some ring o truth to it?
One thing Camila and I have in common is her uncanny ability to reproduce flawlessly and instantly anything that she hears and sees that catches her fancy. I was the same way as a child. I could hear a song on the radio for the first time, even in a foreign language (they played American, Italian and French songs in some radio programs in Cuba) and I could immediately after begin singing it, even imitating the voices of the performers and doing all orchestral sounds with my mouth and throat!
(For those who are wondering, I could mimic and approximate the sounds and pronunciation of foreign words pretty darn good, but had no idea of what I was singing…).
Regardless of any crazy supposition, similarity or wild speculation, Camila is not only smart, beautiful and advanced in character for her age, but she is also very poised, has a genuine sweetness about her that is very endearing, is neat with all her things and fastidious in her grooming routines (will she end up with strong OCD traits like my sister Rosita and me?).
I project myself into the future and see her as a very well respected physician or as a very highly esteemed attorney. She could even make it without major problems as an accomplished TV personality or even as a high profile businesswoman. Higher yet, she could absolutely be the first female President of the United States of Cuban-heritage.
Whatever she will finally become, I am certain that Camila will end up being a very nice, thoughtful, humane and decent individual; someone you would be very proud to call your daughter, your sister, your friend, your boss, or in my particular case, my niece.
Happy birthday, Huevo Frito!
Los Angeles, August 13, 2009