I’d been warned about the birthday parties of well-healed Azeri children. They were a spectacle, people said, held at beach-front villas and featuring multiple performers, exorbitant party favors, and lavish cuisine. No other birthday party will ever live up.

Rachael and I were double-booked, so I was Idara’s plus-one. To put it mildly, the party did not disappoint. Idara had her face painted within a few minutes of our arrival. Then she was carrying around a bouquet of flowers made out of balloons. The kids were being enveloped in giant bubbles and watching a man dressed in black put on a show with a dozen trained pigeons. Every twenty minutes or so a giant unicorn or bear with a person inside would wander through the crowd of children, dancing with them and offering piggyback rides. There was a piñata, too, and so Idara was sent home with a giant bag of candy, and also a betta fish, which she named Zucchini.

As Idara and I drove home I wondered when I should tell her that we will never, ever be able to throw her a birthday party like that. Then she broached the subject herself.

“You know what I want for my 6th birthday party?”

‘Uh-oh,’ I thought, ‘here we go…’

“I want it to be like an Earth birthday,” she said. “We can have lots of water and plants around, and we can make a cake that looks like mud, and then everyone can get a plastic bag and go to that spot next to our house and pick up trash.”

I fought back tears, which is not something I have to do very often. If Idara’s ideal 6th birthday party involves picking up trash, and not just celebrating herself, but also the vehicle on which she’s ridden six laps around the Sun, then maybe, just maybe, we’re doing something right.