I got my Aguinaldo check last week.
But first I had to agree to accompany Paul to a speaking assignment over an hour away. I really didn’t want to go, especially since El Gringo wouldn’t be at home to help watch the kiddos.
El Gringo left the Saturday before, with all the other 16 – 18 year olds in our stake, to join ALL the other 16 – 18 year olds in the entire country for a 5 day youth conference called “SOY.” This was where Paul was headed to on Tuesday, and even though I didn’t mind the idea of seeing El Gringo among his peers, I didn’t want to worry about finding a babysitter for the 3 other kiddos. So Paul took care of it for me. Thanks Paul and a BIG THANK YOU to our neighbor Andy!!
The drive was a bit crazy, due to an accident, so Google Maps re-routed us up a crazy, mountainous path. We thought we would be late for sure but we actually made it in plenty of time. After Paul got all set up, he hit the ground running giving 9 presentations over a 2 hour period.
It was FUN running into some of the youth from our ward/Stake – Alejandro, Derek and Yipsi. We really enjoyed their reactions to seeing us there!
Paul and I especially enjoyed having the group below!
Can you see him?
It’s El Gringo! I can’t believe how much he has changed this last year. He really is growing into quite the fine young man.
After the presentations were finished, we were invited to stay for lunch. It was an enjoyable meal but it was even more fun to watch the kids socialize with one another. “SOY” (Strength of Youth) seemed to be going really well. I was happy El Gringo chose to come but where was he? I thought I had heard him playing the piano but I couldn’t find a piano anywhere in the “mess hall”.
After lunch the Director of SOY, and his wife, asked if we, and all the other participants, would take a photo with them, helping them remember who presented SOY that year. We had to file through lines and lines of youth who were waiting to attend their next activity, a talent show. It was fun being the ONLY gringos around because most of the youth treated us like we were from Church headquarters. They were super polite and very respectful towards us. Cute kids.
After our photo, the Director invited us to stay for the Talent Show. I was surprised when Paul agreed and sat down on the front row. It isn’t like Paul to WANT to see any kind of performance, especially a talent show. When I asked him why we were staying (since I was a bit anxious to get back to the 3 other kiddos), Paul explained that he thought he had heard that El Gringo was going to participate.
WHAT?!?! El Gringo VOLUNTEER to be in a talent show?
As I looked around, I found El Gringo in the crowd of over 300 youth, plus staff and hired help. The crowd was enormous and there was El Gringo, looking directly at me, asking me with an inquisitive look, “Are YOU GUYS staying?” I nodded my head yes and his face change to a smiley SHOCKED look, “What?”, his face screamed. “Are you for real?” He then lifted up his hands and started to play an invisible piano and mouthed, “I’m playing in the talent show.” Now it was my turn to have the shocked face. “Really?” I asked. “Yes,” he nodded. He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. I laughed and turned to Paul, confirming that what he had heard was correct.
The Talent Show was performed on a large stage, thankfully covered for the occasion rain showers. The show had a long list of performers and El Gringo was one of the last to perform. Right before it was his turn, it started to rain pretty hard, so they sent the last of the performers to sit on the stage.
I could FEEL how nervous he was. Oh how I prayed for him to just be himself and do his best. It had been 3 years since El Gringo last performed for an audience of his peers. It was when he was 1st and then 2nd chair in his junior high Jazz Band. He was actually up for a HUGE solo, just as we were moving to Costa Rica, so he had to back out of it. His band teacher, Mr. Nelson, wasn’t happy one bit. Neither was El Gringo. So I hoped that good memories were flooding his mind and that he would stay calm and get through his song.
FINALLY it was his turn. He chose to play “A River Flows in You” and the crowd LOVE IT!
So much so that the crowd shouted, “OTRA!! OTRA!!! OTRA!!” So El Gringo checked with the director of the show and he got a thumbs up. Only one other person was given the chance to give an encore. I was shocked but one of the service center staff was jumping up and down, pumping his arms up and down, encouraging the crowd to yell for more. “Okay,” I thought, “now what are you going to play El Gringo?”
Thankfully El Gringo had an encore up his sleeve and chose to play “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. The crowd went NUTS! They sang, screamed, sang along and screamed some more. It was INSANE. But the look on El Gringo’s face was INCREDIBLE. In THIS MOMENT I could feel all the pain, all the suffering, all the sacrificing over the last 3 years all made worth it. In THIS MOMENT El Gringo was paid back in FULL, and MORE, for missing out on his solo in junior high.
I wanted to cry but there were too many photographers capturing the moment, including the looks on the “proud parent’s faces.” (Have I mentioned I do like my picture taken?) Sadly Paul and I had to leave and get back in time for Paul’s Bishop appointments so we couldn’t give El Gringo a hug before we left (I think it was okay with El Gringo though).
As we walked down the steps, towards our parked car, Paul said, “Well, how does it feel to get your Aguinaldo?” I laughed and said, “I think it was El Gringo who received the pay day this time.” El Gringo agrees! He is so grateful he had that experience and even celebrated that night at the dance by dancing his heart out, in the MIDDLE of the circle that the youth made around him. WHAT?!?! Who is this kid?
You can check out his performance here and his dancing here.
I guess only time will tell what is inside this AMAZING son of ours. We love you El Gringo! Well done on correctly sharing a wonderful piece of who you are, and with so many all at once. I am SUPER proud of you. Congratulations! ~ Mom