Not long after Ray and I moved in together, I turned to him one morning as we were waking up and said, “Every day with you is like Christmas.”
True, sometimes life feels a little more like the mad run up to the big day or the letdown you feel right after, or one of those ugly fights neighbors get into over competing holiday light displays, but I can honestly say that I still roll over, a lot of mornings, with that sparkly feeling that the day holds something pretty great.
So I have no idea why I’m so obsessed with birthdays, particularly birthday parties. If every day’s Christmas, must there also be a birthday party? (And I’m not counting Jesus and his birthday here. Nor can it be my own. But anyone else’s — particularly my kids’ — I’m all over that. In what I’m quite sure is an unhealthy or at least unattractive way.)
This past Sunday morning, I went in to get Sophie up. We had our usual hugs and kisses and discussion about whether her pull-up was wet (it was) and I said, “Hey, are you going to wish Annabelle a happy birthday party — um, I mean a happy birthday?, today”
I was embarrassed by the slip, confirmation that I’m more obsessed with the trappings than the purity of the occasion. Of course Sophie didn’t notice.
And the truth is that Annabelle’s birthday isn’t for another three weeks, but her party was, indeed, last Sunday. I had Sophie’s party a month early this spring to avoid the heat and the end-of-the-school-year rush, and that worked so well I figured why not do the same for Annabelle. I knew it’d still be boiling hot (it was) but at least most of her friends would still be in town, I guessed, before the July dash to cooler climates. (They were.)
I think the party turned out ok. Annabelle announced it was the best day of her life, so really, what more can I ask? And except for a behind-the-counter crunch that resulted in no drinks or pizza for quite some time (I maintain that in order to work at a bowling alley, you must be stoned, and thus, can’t be asked to do much, although I did pitch a huge but quiet fit that resulted in a large cost savings when it came time to pay the bill) it all went pretty smoothly.
At one point, though, when the 10th kid had begged me for something to drink and the 6th was demanding food, a friend looked at my face and said, “Huh. Bet you could use a drink,” and motioned to the bowling alley’s bar, which did happen to be conveniently situated right behind us.
“Oh no,” I said. “Don’t you remember what happened at Sophie’s party?”
It seemed like a really good idea to serve alcohol at Sophie’s birthday party, which we held at home. Nothing hard, just a tin tubful of Sofia — tiny pink cans of sparkling wine, made by Francis Ford Coppola in honor of his daughter. They are too cute, even come with a bendy straw. I LOVE Sofia and heck, Sophie’s practically got the same name, so it seemed smart to buy all the Sofia they had at BevMo. That was only five boxes of four cans each, and I got it in my head that they’d go fast, so I sucked down three and spent most of my kid’s fifth birthday party snockered. (Snookered? You know what I mean.)
It really wasn’t a problem, except that I forgot to serve the culinary highlight, tiny containers of Ben & Jerry’s in assorted flavors, and also lost track of Sophie long enough for her to open all of her presents, creating an interesting situation when it came time to write thank you notes.
All of which is to say that birthday parties stress the hell out of me, but I love them, crave them, start planning for them months in advance, and never feel satisfied once they’re over. I love birthday party junk, particularly if it’s vintage. I own four pink nut cups and two old books about how to play your kid’s party. (Not counting Amy Sedaris’ “I Like You,” the best.)
I’m mindful of that whole over the top thing, the boundaries of which I’m sure I leapt across when Annabelle was 4 and my friend Kacey and I threw a 50s party for our girls, complete with sock hop attire and pounds (literally) of nostalgia-inducing candy. (And more details I’m too embarrassed to share. Really, it wasn’t THAT bad, I’ve been to worse, but we did lose our minds a teeny tiny bit.)
Check out the story one of my friends and colleagues, Robrt Pela, wrote last year about truly over the top kid parties: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2007-03-29/news/my-super-sweet-six/
Back to Annabelle’s, I think it was subdued. How fancy can you get at a bowling alley? OK, so they had matching hot pink bowling shirts. And I did take the girls to ABC Baking, a local baking supply store (hence the name, duh) the day before, and let them pick out plastic rings and cupcake toppers (for 15 cents each, you can’t go wrong, it’s my new favorite summer activity, a trip to ABC) and I did make little goody containers out of water bottles shaped like bowling pins (thanks to my sister for that idea) and ok, I did order a stamp on Ebay with a little pin and bowl so I could make tags for the water bottles, but I kept myself from making a special trip to MIchael’s to buy white tags and made due with the manilla ones I had at home, which I thought showed incredible self-restraint.
The water bottles and the plastic rings and the Fry’s cupcakes (I iced them myself, for that messy, homemade look) with the plastic bowling pins stuck in them looked ok, but yeah, I did need a drink. I knew that half the parents were thinking, “What a freak, why’d she do all that?” and the other half were thinking, “Hmph, that looks like shit.” And I, of course, was thinking both things.
Maybe I should look into anti-anxiety meds. But really, I think a couple cans of Sofia would have done the trick. Or not. As it was, I forgot to take any pictures til the party was over and Annabelle looked — well, looked like she had a damn good time at her birthday party.
At least I have a neat list of everything everyone gave to Annabelle. And I remembered to serve the cupcakes.
TOMORROW: THE ROOT OF THE BIRTHDAY PARTY OBSESSION.