I was the only parent to ask to attend my neighbor’s soon-to-be nine-year-olds birthday party. At that age I guess it’s much more normal to drop off your kids and sneak off for a much-needed three-hour tour of the local mall, beauty salon or martini bar. Was I just a big loser? (Please refrain from bashing me on the TITTS for that stupid question, if you can!) Did I have nothing else to do on a Saturday afternoon? Desperate for a column idea? Or only curious as to what entertains a pack of wild nine-year-olds these days? Only birthday boy Ben Boyd could guess.
It wasn’t at Chuck E. Cheese or any of those other types of facilities around town that are willing to host your kid’s party. It was a homemade job. The kind we used to have. But I had my own vision of the expected fare. There would be cake and ice cream, enough Doritos to keep me happy for three hours, maybe a wine cooler would be found in the ice chest below all the Capri Sun foil pouches, and an Astro Jump the kids could entertain themselves with all afternoon. I was soon going to find out how much more fun a party at the Boyd’s was to be. And how much more we parents could be involved.
Ann was surprised that I had asked to stay when I RSVP’d to the invitation. But then when she realized that I was the only mom willing to hang out she quickly inducted me into duty. The first thing to do was to make sure Samantha wrote her name on a slip of paper with her (correct!) guess of how many disgusting gummy worms she thought was in a (thankfully) tightly sealed plastic jar the size of my first car.
After that Ann split the kids up into two teams. (I should have known that with her daily work at Peachland elementary she would have some idea what the kids would like to do.) They were then quickly dispatched to the backyard for a basketball type game, I think they called it “free throw”. After that they had a relay race so Samantha got to do her personal favorite: the mom-dreaded gunny sack race. The next activity (after Ann checked her rough pencil drafted schedule) was the high-speed treasure hunt.
I was in charge of watching over the kids as they tried to pick a marble out of a Tupperware container containing a half dozen egg yolks. (Ann insisted it was dishwashing liquid but not a single bubble rose through all of their attempts!) There were two packs of kids, six or so per pack, running around like the wild banshees God intended them to be. Screaming in excitement, my five-year-old was having the time of her life without a clue, or care, of what they were doing. Dive down the hill, search the hedges, the red team is ahead finding their last clue in the mailbox! Ann told them it wasn’t going to be much of a treasure, just little things, but that didn’t thwart their enthusiasm! When the little tin box was finally discovered, held high over the head of the winning grinning kid, he quickly ripped it open and shared the contents with everyone. Red and blue teams alike got their share of tootsie rolls, pennies and those little wax Coke bottles with the Kool-Aid inside.
Next we moved to one of the bedrooms for a game of “concentration”. Ben’s dad Jeff instructed all of the children to memorize as many items on the cookie sheet as possible and then write down what they remembered after he removed it. The smaller children were instructed to draw, or attempt to spell everything they could. Jeff allowed enough time for every child to complete its task. The kids went nutzo for that game. I wished I had a chance to compete because it had been years for me and I’m sure I could have remembered at least ten, while the winner recalled something like 20 (?) out of 18. Go figure. And all it cost was the idea.
There weren’t endless bags of chips strewn about. No candy other than the gummy worms tucked safely away in their container. The kids never cared a hoot. When it was time to serve cake and ice cream they could hardly sit down for it. Their schedule so far had been so packed that they could hardly sit still in anticipation of the next activity. Ben made a wish when he easily blew out his candles but it looked like it had already come true to me.
After that came the piñata, flying side to side with more jiggling money and candy. Jeff was using a wooden bat; Ann couldn’t find the plastic one in time. Ben was sure he knew were it was and quickly ran off to look leaving his place in line. He was just as gracious and considerate with his guests as his parents were!
Then the snake guy showed up. It was the only part I didn’t absolutely love about the party. He was a little late, we think he got caught up at the Calgrove “gate”. Questions were only taken at the end of each snake’s description. Interruptions were not tolerated. He was a little too structured for my taste but at least Ann and Jeff had a chance to take some photographs of the kids while they were still.
A day or two later Ann followed up by with a hand written note tucked into my mailbox thanking me for the (little) help I was. I felt like I had invaded a little on their special day, especially when I recalled how Ben quickly nodded when I asked if I could write about it. I also felt all of my forty-two years wondering if I could ever compete with her in my next party for Sam.
Happy birthday Ben Boyd! Can I come again next year? How could you top this year? Maybe Ed can hose down all the boys from the fire truck? Would that be enough?