This post is inspired by my fun friend
When I was a kid, birthday parties lasted about two hours in the living room or out on the front porch. Six or eight kids of the same gender were invited and they came—clean—with a gift. Some games were played. At a boy’s party, horseplay and goofing off always erupted. In my case, I opened my six presents and thanked everyone the way polite little boys always do.
Then we all fell into more horseplay until we heard “Cake and ice cream, boys.” As soon as we ate the (homemade) cake and (hand-cranked) ice cream we lined up for one group picture taken with a Kodak Brownie camera. Then off to a free-for-all wrestling match out on the grass. That lasted till my mom yelled, “Okay, boys. The party’s over. Time for everyone to go home.” So they all yelled, “Thank you, Mrs. Nichols, I had a nice time,” got on their bikes and rode themselves home.
“Did you have a nice time, honey?”
“Would you like another piece of cake? There was a little bit left over.”
“Yeah, sure! That was your best cake ever, Mom!”
Not long ago one of our grandkids had a birthday party, which My First Wife and I attended. Now, I’m all for wild parties and delicious goodies, but it looks like times have changed.
First, “Miss Mommy” scheduled the date several months ago and mailed out RSVP invitations and RSVP e-mail notices.
“Mr. Daddy” rented an indoor amusement park. There are countless video games, bumper cars, electronic machines of chance, water slides, pin ball machines, circus acts, strolling clowns and magicians, futuristic outer space rooms, bowling lanes, scary jungle rooms, fantasy rooms, cages where people shoot colorful balls at each other, cages with climbing apparatus, Monsters-on-Call, Outback adventure rooms. Even a room—a room, mind you—with a sandy beach and wavy water! The kids bring twenty-five dollars cash to play all those machines.
There are thousands of stuffed animals to win! win! win! Music is piped through ceiling speakers that are only 4 feet apart in every direction. YOU CANNOT HEAR YOURSELF YELL AT THE KIDS!
Dotted among all these rooms are eating stations of every ilk, all with the same menu: Sugar, Large Sugar and Deluxe Sugar. Only thirty minutes to wait in line and order.
Upstairs there are rooms and rooms and even more rooms for the actual birthday parties. There must have been twenty of them going on under all that piped in music.
Today’s kids bring seventy-five dollar gifts and ten dollar cards to the birthday boy or girl. The gift unwrapping frenzy began. A grown up wrote down all the gifts and givers, two pages.
“Mom,” the birthday boy whispered. “I bought one of these CDs the other day. It only cost fourteen dollars.”
“I know, honey,” Mom whispered back. “Don’t say anything. Her daddy got downsized, so they’re budgeting. We’ll exchange if for something else.”
“Yeah, but I got her a…”
“I said ‘Don’t say anything’,” Mom said out of the side of her mouth.
Just then the caterer arrived with a supreme pizza—for each child.
Each child took a couple of small bites and a sip of Supah-Sugah Cola. Then came the wedding cake—I mean, the birthday cake. All the parents jumped into the fracas with digital cameras. “Everybody look this way. Come on, smile!” “Did you get it?” “Wait, lemme do that over!” “Line up again!”
The six-hour rental time was up; it was time to leave. “Wait! Wait! Before you go,” Miss Mommy yelled, “I have a ‘Thank-You-For-Coming’ gift for every one."
“You better!” some kid snorted. "Yeah, it's about time," another one chimed in.
Mr. Dad leaned into Miss Mommy’s ear and said, “There’s only 40 gifts here. We’ve got 52 kids.”
“Well, we’ll just have to get some more and FedEx them,” Miss Mommy replied out of the side of her mouth.
“How much did these things cost?” Mr. Dad asked.
“Twenty-five dollars each.”
“That’s not bad. What are they?”
“Gift cards for the next time they come here,” Miss Mommy told him.
Back at their house later that night, Miss Mommy asked, “Did you have a nice time, honey?”
“Yeah, I guess,” replied the birthday boy.
“Would you like another piece of cake? There was a whole bunch left over.”
“Yuk! That was the worst cake you ever bought. Don’t get that kind anymore. And anyway, I’ll just get some more tomorrow at ‘What’s-Her-Name’s’ party.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I timidly spoke up. “Do you mind if I ask how much that birthday party cost?”
“Well, we maxed out both of our platinum cards…”
I couldn’t sleep that night (I inhaled too many sugar fumes), so I thought up this brilliant birthday idea.
- Make and distribute a Birthday Club list of all the kids in your circle of friends.
- Make all birthday gifts a fifty dollar bill.
- Everybody in your circle of friends is to take fifty dollars to the first January kid. No card, just the money. That January kid, in turn, will take one of the bills to the next party on the list, and then another bill to the next party and so on. Sooner or later, your kid will get all the money. There will be enough fifty dollar bills to go around for years to come.
- “Outdoor games” is a great theme for a party. Kickball, tag, croquet, jump rope, hop-scotch, Frisbee toss, Hacky-sack, Three-Legged Races—that sort of stuff. You may have to explain what “running” is.
- Consider a “Fresh Air” theme, too. That means everyone meets in a (free) city park among real trees, on honest-to-goodness grass—or even in your own back yard. Encourage the children to venture more than ten feet away from Miss Mommy and assure them that the trees will not fall on them.
- Be sure to tell the kids about squirrels and the quiet sound of gentle breezes. And those quick flying things are birds. You know, from the second page in their first A-B-C book?