Remembrances of Birthday Parties Past
The Record, March 14, 1963
Counting back into the dim past I figure I’ve given about 15 birthday parties beginning with Terry when he was three and invited 30 children. That was one party I’ll never forget. Thirty wild little three-year-olds making mince-meat of my house while I tried to think of all the things one does at parties to make them gay and charming.
To feed them I had to set up a long row of orange crates along the length of my kitchen and covered them with paper tablecloths and endless amounts of cake and ice cream. Suddenly, there was this unearthly quiet. My ear-drums pounding with relief, I noted they were all eating. This is still my favorite moment at any birthday party.
You would think I would have learned much from this traumatic experience but the very next year l actually got the idea of serving lunch at Terry’s birthday party. Needless to say the guest list was considerably thinned out, but this, too, was a fiasco. Hardly anyone liked what I served (what is the matter with tuna-fish?) and everyone demanded peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No one ate much cake and ice cream.
I have come to some conclusions about birthday parties, one of which is that I lack the aptitude and temperament for arranging clever tables and charming games. So I have convinced myself that little boys don’t like “fancy” parties, anyway. Another thing I have noticed is that the Birthday Boys usually act obnoxiously at their own parties. THEY want to be first. THEY want to win prizes, too. THEY are not sure they like all their presents. In short, birthday parties bring out the worst in my kids. In the midst of their most egotistical day of the year, they reward me by being cranky, overtired and overbearing. Fortunately the number of parties I must give have narrowed down. Scotty and Terry have outgrown them completely.
By the time I got around to David I was, to say the least, jaded about the idea of giving anymore parties. So. when he was four and five, I conned him into sharing birthday cake and Ice cream with one or two little friends. He seemed to feel something was missing (having been a guest at his brothers’ affairs) but didn’t actually complain. Last year, however, when he was six, I couldn’t fool him anymore and he had his first real party. For some reason a veil obscures the memory of this social event.
But the party I gave him last week on his seventh birthday is still fresh in my mind. And, incredibly, the memory is a happy one. For one thing, David organized the whole party himself. All I had to supply were refreshments. There were no decisions about whom to invite: David recited me the list. (It was reasonably short) He (with my money) bought the candy and other decorations and he combed town until he found a five-cent gift so we could have a prize for everyone. (No mean feat, but believe it or not, you can still buy a top for a nickel! No string, though.)
The games were also pre-selected. Before they are, David armed all the boys with guns from the Flander arsenal and out they went. They came back briefly for a present-opening session and David was delighted with all his gifts. (They included a set of chess, perhaps his favorite.) Not only did hungry boys eat up all their cake and ice-cream but almost all of them ate up seconds (no birthday cake for dessert that night!) The party concluded with a game of dodge-ball — outside. And everyone went home at the appointed by me hour.
Instead of taking to my bed as I usually do after such bouts of entertainment, I remained cheerful and cooked my family an elegant stew.