Much to my surprise, candles were lit upon the lava cake, the Song was sung, balloons were played with, and we retired to the living area for coffee and conversation.
That's when it happened.
Owen had been playing intently with his pal, when he came up to me and said, "Momma, I needa blow my nose." Which was pretty much the biggest understatement of the world. Snot ran down to his lips, some was already smeared and drying across his cheek, and his shirt held the evidence of how that smear transpired. Luckily I spotted a box of tissue sitting within arms reach on the end table.
"Grab that tissue there, honey," I instructed, in my naïveté.
He looked fiercely for some tissue, but could not see what sat right in front of his (faucet of a) nose.
"Right there, honey," I pointed, just out of my reach but right next to him.
He finally spots the white tissues, popping out of the pink box. Grabs the top one quickly with his right hand, places his left hand firmly near the opening of the box, and tears it right in half.
"Oh, um, honey," I start blundering as he looks at the shredded tissue in his hand. "That's not quite how it works - this is a box of tissues, they're already all separated, you just have to pull one out and it will come."
My son. Our lovely, smart, problem-solving, four year old, says, "Oh, okay," and tries again.
This time, using only one hand, he reaches for the top tissue and pulls ever-so-gently until it almost becomes released from the next tissue. He figures he's done it right, firmly places his other hand below and rips.
At this point I'm realizing my son has never used a tissue from a box. 'Round these parts tissues are (or at least used to be) a hot commodity. You could get 'em, sometimes, but the price was about $3-4 for a small box of see-through sandpaper. So we just right away relegated ourselves to using toilet paper for our nose-woes. I even fashioned an old coffee mug box that had a square cut-out (for the handle) into a TP dispensing, kleenex-wanna-be. Hence my son's affinity for ripping with gusto at any 'tissue' he needs - another thing Tanzania is famous for: perforated things that don't actually rip where they're perforated. Hence the gusto required.
Anyway, by this point Miss Sara and I are quite entertained, but not wanting the tissues to go to waste, so after I manage to use the two shredded ones she reaches for another to show him how it's done.
He stares in astonishment.
We use this one and he's still (surprisingly) in need of another so we let him have another go at it. And he does it. And he turns and looks with me with such pride for his accomplishment. And I am beaming at him in return, because I AM proud of my son for figuring out how to get tissue out of a box.
So on Wednesday we're out getting groceries and I spot a box of tissues for the low-low price of only 3,000 tsh. (That's about $1.50) I figured I would give 'em a go, because O and I have had some serious colds for about two weeks now, and hubby's allergies are giving him a run for his money, so why not?!
Tonight Owen notices the box on the table, "Are those like Miss Sara's?!?" he exclaims in anticipation of my, "Yes." (because remember: bright kid)
When he hears what he'd anticipated he runs off with a smile on his face and goes to play.
Later, when he needs to blow his nose, he tries his luck at pulling out the tissue. It successfully pops out, with that gratifying ttthhhwwwwpp sound and he smiles from ear-to-ear yelling, "It IS like Miss Sara's!!!!"
Yes, yes it is, my dear. And you have conquered yet another box of tissues.
Sometimes, especially when you're a third culture kid, it's all about the small things.