My mother never met a holiday she didn’t want to celebrate.

Ok, I promised to explain my birthday neurosis.

I don’t remember much about my own birthday parties, growing up. But I do recall my 7th — celebrated at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. Where else? When some other party ordered The Zoo and the guys raced around the restaurant with it — bells banging, sirens blaring — it scared the crap out of me, like it always did. But it was a good birthday; I got one of those toy sewing machines that used glue. I also recall, that year, going to dinner at Howard Johnson’s on a separate night, where I received a yellow Snoopy watch (long gone). And of course there was also the party with the extended family, which always included a Googy’s surprise cake.

How’s that for a dose of 70s-era Phoenix nostalgia? (No, Wallace and Ladmo weren’t there, though family legend has it that my aunt once went on a date with Wallace. And no, I don’t recall having a birthday party at Legend City. Too dangerous.)

Anyhow, you get the picture. Birthdays in our family weren’t super-fancy or expensive, but they were treated like a Catholic wake — long and involved, stretched over several days, with lots of food.

And it wasn’t enough to celebrate once a year. My favorite gift ever was actually one I received on my HALF birthday, first celebrated in junior high. I got lemon-scented Tickle deodorant.

What can I tell you? My mother never met a holiday she didn’t want to celebrate. (Still true today.) One of her favorite sayings was, “Santa Claus does not discriminate against Jews.”

It was a good childhood, but as an adult, I find it hard to match the perfection of ice cream, hard candy and the player piano at Farrell’s. Twice a year, on my birthday and again on my sister Jenny’s, Jenny and I get on the phone to lament our birthdays as adults — that our husbands will never match the one-woman birthday parade that is our mother. (And let me say, Ray does a damn good job trying.)

Trouble is, the rest of the world didn’t always match Mom’s expectations for our birthdays — one of those things I only fully understand now that I’m a mother myself.

For me, each kid birthday party is a clean slate, a chance to try again to get it perfect. And with Sophie, it’s even more complicated. More on this later, I promise/threaten.

The blog’s not called Girl in a Party Hat for nothing.



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