In my neighborhood, the only thing more expensive than hosting a child’s birthday party is a trip to Paris for a week. My neighbors put more thought into their child’s party than the entire royal family put into the Prince of Wales’ wedding.
Since hosting a birthday party is often the first chance to debut into barbecue society, most parents start planning for the next event the minute the last gift is opened and the candles on the cake are cold. Last year there was a rumor that one mother tried to hire the New York City Ballet to perform the Nutcracker in her backyard while another froze her swimming pool and tried to reserve the Ice Capades for an afternoon performance.
The last party my daughter went to had a clown who made life-size balloon animals, a white horse claiming to be Mr. Ed, and a dancing Chihuahua named Lucy who wore a pink ruffle and did the tango.
“Mom!” my daughter shouted while looking out of the front window one Saturday morning, “Brian’s house has been eaten by a giant tilting purple dinosaur and I think it’s coming this way!”
“Relax,” I paused, “it’s only an air jump.”
In June, when my daughter turned five, I decided that her birthday party would be a unique surprise, something that had never been attempted in our neighborhood, and that demonstrated my love better than turning the house into a three ring circus.
“She’s going to have an old-fashioned birthday party,” I announced proudly to my husband, “with homemade cake and hand made favors.”
“That’s great, Hon,” he said, “but you haven’t baked since we moved into this house and mistook the oven for the microwave and broiled soup for dinner.”
“And your sewing kit,” he continued, “consists of a glue gun, paper clips, and a stapler.”
Despite his pessimism I eagerly proceeded with my plan to surprise my daughter with the same kind of party I had as a child. Each night, after she went to bed, I diligently created the same yarn octopuses that my mother made for me. I wound colored yarn into a ball and meticulously braided eight equal legs while anticipating my daughter’s look of surprise and joy.
On the day of the party I gave my husband specific directions.
“Take her out for breakfast and don’t come back until 1 o’clock. I want everything perfect when she walks in,” I explained, “I can’t wait to see her face!”
I set the table while they were gone and, at the last moment, opened the bag of yarn octopuses and carefully propped each one up beside a place setting so they would be the first thing my daughter and her friends saw. Then I went to check on the cake in the oven.
My daughter returned just as the guests were arriving and I proudly led all six girls into the dining room to present my birthday display.
“What are those?” my daughter cried, pointing at the octopuses that were slightly askew. “I wanted a mermaid party!” she sobbed, “and an ice-cream cake from the store.”
I thought of the plain looking chocolate cake waiting in the kitchen, and the recipe written in advanced gourmet hieroglyphics that took me all morning to decipher.
“Where’s the clown?” one of the girls asked, “and the animals?” I pointed to the poster of the tailess donkey on the wall.
My heart sank when three of the guests began to cry, two asked to go to home, and one tried to sneak out the back door.
“What’s the commotion?” my husband asked, entering the room.
“I wanted a mermaid party!” my daughter cried.
He looked around the room at the downcast faces.
“No problem,” he said, walking out to the backyard. “Follow me.”
He quickly connected the sprinkler to the hose and turned the water on full blast while the children shouted with delight and ran past me into the yard. Laughter and shouting echoed throughout the house as I ran upstairs to get towels and extra bathing suits. After an hour the girls were tired, but happy.
“Time for mermaid cake!” my husband announced.
“Yay!” the girls ran quickly into the house. I was surprised when my husband carried the cake out with all of the abandoned yarn octopus placed neatly on top. When my daughter finished blowing out the candles I reached for knife to cut the first piece.
“I want a piece with an octopus on top!” my daughter announced. “Me, too!” the other girls chorused.
My husband looked at me and smiled as the girls ate their cake and licked the frosting off the yarn. I leaned over and kissed my daughter on the top of her head.
“Happy birthday,” I whispered into her ear and the look on her face said that it was.
|Debbie Farmer is a teacher and writer who is being held captive in a large stucco house with one husband, two kids, and a cranky gray cat. She received a BA in Creative Writing/English from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1988. Her stories have been published in various ezines on the internet, the Manic Mom's national newsletter, and several parenting magazines across the country. She is a weekly columnist for the Ledger Dispatch in Antioch, CA. Samples of her work can be found at Musings Of A Manic Mom, http://www.geocities.com/soho/lofts/2878/ .|