Kids don’t care if you spend a week on Pinterest searching for the most clever ways to make a party look like it came straight from Willy Wonka’s brain. They don’t give a shit about themes. Kids want to know where the cake is and what they can climb without getting in trouble. They don’t want specific complicated crafts and games, they want a bunch of misc supplies to supplement their imagination.
All of my over-the-top Pinteresty parties have been smashing in their success, but they’ve also been expensive and exhausting. They were for a more well-rested version of myself. Last year I had a fantastic theme and the kids had a great time, and the main thing I remember about it is that I ended up in the hospital for the better part of three weeks. In this case correlation has nothing to do with causation, but it did show me that at the end of the day all that matters is that people have fun, and nobody ends up in the hospital.
Clearly my bar has been lowered. I surpassed my expectations by shedding them as I went, including a last-minute trade of whimsically decorated cupcakes for a build-your-own-cupcake bar. I restocked Lorelei’s secret garden with loose parts and set up a table of misc craft supplies. I bought beer for the adults and put out plenty of chairs. It turns out that this is all you need for a fantastic party. The food was simple and lacked any cohesiveness — bottles of lemonade and tea took the place of the fancy punch of yesteryear.
The kids ranged from toddler to tween, and everyone had something to do. Forts were built, playhouses were climbed, and fairy gardens were decorated. The weather was perfect for the sixth year in a row.
And not one single person had to go to the hospital.
It felt much less like Rowan’s birthday party than Lorelei’s, but it’s hard to tell how much is it being mostly populated with Lorelei’s friends, second child syndrome, or the fact that he shouldn’t be one yet. I let him go ahead and eat a cupcake, which he devoured, but celebrating his birth is so conflicting. I’m forever grateful to have a healthy baby, but my sense of time has become hopelessly skewed. Being a parent and getting older are both the ultimate changers of time perception, but having a preemie adds a layer that I hadn’t expected. There are so many “birthdays” of sorts. His actual day of birth, the day him came home, and his due date. These each come with their own trap doors, letting me stand on solid ground until it gives way beneath me. The fall isn’t as far as it was a year ago, but there is still the sudden lurching sensation as my stomach bottoms out on memories.
There were a few of those moments yesterday. They were not engulfing, but rather death by a thousand papercuts. The most unexpected was walking to my best friend’s car after the party and the sudden and intense reminder of walking to her car last year to go out to dinner, aka the last thing I did before everything went sideways. I could vividly imagine being that person who still thought she had another 2.5 months of pregnancy ahead of her. My body felt the same, minus the extra life inside. I had the sun-bleached exhaustion intertwined with the high of watching so many people gather in my backyard. I was full of cake and excitement. It was like last year, but so completely different.
I’ve said before how much I love circles and nice neat packages of symmetrical memory. I keep waiting to close this circle; first I thought that the anniversary of my ER trip might do it. We went to the same restaurant and got the same food as last year. I even started my period that night, in what I can only assume was my body’s sick idea of a joke.
Then I was sure the party would bring the ends back together. The aftermath was mentioned several times by those that were there last year.
Now I’m wondering if it is going to be a messy spiral with edges that never quite meet back up. I followed that spiral to its center last year, and rather than finding symmetry I have found that it’s a slow ride back out. It’s bumpy and imperfect and sometimes doubles back over on itself. But mostly upwards and onwards. I just wish this train had a sleeping car.
These metaphors are making me sound more dramatic than I intend, and writing makes me sound far more introspective than I think I actually am.
Last fall I remember being so angry that there was never going to be a “the moment.” The moment when everything is suddenly better. I kept waiting for it, and eventually had to just accept that it wasn’t going to happen. I think that is the same thing as wanting the circle to be unbroken. I feel like if the ends meet up and join together that it will be that moment. Like there is a dividing line between then and now, if only I could find it.
I spend most of my time in the now, but sometimes the then catches me by surprise. Sometimes the then is hiding in a Prius parked down the street. And sometimes I find the now in simple moments, like not going to the hospital.