A blog celebrating gatherings and everyday rituals
Growing up as an immigrant in Los Angeles with my Dad, I always revered the lavish birthday celebrations of my friend Janet, whose older sisters created annual birthday celebrations akin to a paper version of an epic movie set… Barbie, Disney princesses, Bat Girl, and even a wicked witch party. They included matching plates, cups, cakes shaped like castles or caves, pink or black crepe streamers, array of theme appropriate snacks, sandwiches cut into glass slippers, tiaras or bat wings, capes, goodie bags full of plastic rings or bat gadgets, etc. Imagining this was the way things were done in this country and perfect Brady Bunch world, I began to plan the same level of extravaganza for my own future children.
Flash forward several decades… My husband and I rented a villa in Italy for a month in October and invited our families to join us. My husband’s aunt, uncle, parents plus their best friends joined us from California. My dad and his wife travelled down from Prague.
It wasn’t until a few days before the day that I realized my son’s first birthday would happen in Italy! Yikes. Finding Buzz Lightyear party supplies was not going to happen in that small Tuscan village. We were forced to improvise. So, uncle Dave and Deb made party hats from newspaper. Tiramisu from the local bakery substituted as birthday cake. Baba and Papo found balloons in the Tabac and filled the dining room floor with them. We made pasta sauce using the roma tomatoes and fresh basil we scrounged from the villa garden.
My son’s face sparkled with joy and wonder when he entered the room full of family and friends wearing silly newsprint hats. Him wading through a floor of balloons will never be forgotten. He promptly stuck his hand into the cake and it was a party! When we realized that my Dad would be turning 70 the next month, he and my son shared the single candle found in the back of the kitchen drawer, and blew it out together. It was perfect.
Subsequent year birthday celebrations never saw pre-designed media character hats, plates, and goodie bags. Instead we worked with what we had on hand and focused our efforts on the love and company of family and friends instead. OK, I confess, we occasionally hired a puppeteer, lizard lady complete with a reptile menagerie, or created a scavenger hunt in the backyard. We always hang a Happy Birthday sign above the dining table. But’s it’s the same sign that I pull from the party cupboard every year.
Our memories come from those experiences, not from disposable media laden stuff that is quickly lost or tossed shortly after the event. The magic emanating from the conversations and laughs are what last.