Ethiopia – I gotcha!

Jesmina got the Easy Bake oven she wanted for "I gotcha!" day.

I was running errands yesterday afternoon when Keri deGuzman called to invite me to her daughter Jesmina’s “I gotcha!” party.

“Every year, on the anniversary of the date we got our kids, we have an ‘I gotcha’ party,” she explained. “A bunch of our friends are meeting us for pizza at Grimaldi’s for Jesmina’s ‘I gotcha’ party. You should come!”

Jesmina's "I gotcha" cake (after the knife went in to cut the first slice), which Jesmina rightfully insisted should go to her.

Friday was the third anniversary of the date Jesmina deGuzman was first placed in her parents’ arms. I’d say that’s something to celebrate.

And every year after this one, a few days after her own “I gotcha” date, she and her family will celebrate another one: a date soon approaching when Keri and her husband Brian will hold Tesfanesh and Mintesnot Solomon deGuzman for the first time.

I will be with them, in a foster home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when that happens.

But last night was about Jesmina, a bright, outgoing 3½-year-old who wanted an Easy Bake Oven — and got one — for her party. Brian and Keri are very clear with Jesmina and 1½-year-old Musee that these are not birthday parties but they do provide one gift “from Mommy and Daddy” to commemorate the occasion. And despite insisting that their guests need not bring gifts, there were several piled on the bar from loving, supportive friends who just couldn’t help themselves.

After we all packed in pizza and salads, Keri brought out a cake adorned with a “Happy I Gotcha Day” message in blue icing script. Everyone gathered around as Brian lit one candle on the cake and everyone sang “Happy ‘I gotcha day’ to you…” to the tune of the “Happy Birthday” song.

Musse, who spent most of the evening playing with Matchbox cars and his buddy Nyle, enjoys a piece of cake.

Typically, Keri told me, she plans Ethiopian food for these occasions. They meet at Tempe’s Cafe Lalibela or she prepares the food herself at home with the help of her friend Maria Aklog, whose husband, Lishan, is a cardiac surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center (as is Brian deGuzman).

Typically, however, she is not preparing to make a cross-country trip with two small children followed by a trans-Atlantic flight back from Ethiopia with two more. We are meeting at Sky Harbor at 6:30am Tuesday for a Southwest flight to Baltimore, so that Jesmina and Musse can be left with Brian’s parents while Brian, Keri and I travel on to Ethiopia.

The pressure of preparing for the trip, combined with the fact that “in a week we’ll be eating Ethiopian food every day,” prompted Keri to (quite wisely) keep things simpler this time around.

From left: Jesmina, Keri, Brian and Musse deGuzman.