Tonight will mark the 18th time I have hosted a birthday party for my oldest daughter. It’s probably the last time I will be able to do so; the next ones she will probably spend away at school and after that, birthdays just aren’t as much fun. Grown up parties never are.
Long ago I spent weeks planning just the right party. Invitations were sent out three weeks before the event. Favorite characters, movies, and themes were showcased with decorations, elaborate cakes, and activities. Each moment had to be planned out fairly precisely because having down time during the party meant restless kids. Just the right place had to be found to host the party; sometimes our house, sometimes something more theme related. For her first birthday we had a clown theme and only grownups attended. She was the first grandchild on one side of the family and all of the grandmas and grandpas were there, along with some aunts and uncles. She was the chocolate-covered star in the high chair at the end of the table, clown party hat and all. For her fifth birthday, we rented a large room in the community center and invited her entire kindergarten class. We set up a tent and a fake fire pit and pretended we were all camping, eating S’mores and doing camp crafts with 25 five and six year olds. We hosted a Dalmatian party at the gymnastics place for one of the earlier birthdays, another year my mom baked a Barbie dress cake with a doll stuck in it, and more recently my daughter had a pillow party sleepover with a professional cake covered in fancy buttercream pillows. Having a December birthday meant we were indoors, but she always seemed to have a good time.
Nowadays, parties are a little different. Even though preparations are easier and less time-consuming, I’m not sure I like it as well. “I dunno when we’ll have the cake. Does it matter? Some time after the pizza, I guess. Are you guys going to be hanging around all night?” The invitations went out as a Facebook event, and all we need is a relatively clean basement, a clear pool table, a stereo and a TV.
Oh, and food. Lots of food. And earplugs. And blinders.