So last February I read about a couple in Florida throwing their son a first birthday party. The mother said, “These are the memories I want him to have. I want him to know how important and special I think he is.” Then she invited 60 guests to join the boy, his father and herself at the local country club for a big affair catered by a professional party planner and featuring pony rides, a magician, and a pinata.
Birthdays weren’t a big deal in my family as I was growing up; just another day. Somebody might or might not casually mention that this was so and so’s birthday, but I can’t remember special meals except for twice, milestones you might say, when I was six, and again when I was seventeen. That last one was probably because I cried and pouted when No. 16 went by un-heeded or heralded. My teary episode must have gotten to Mama, because the following year she surprised me by inviting several friends from the Church youth group to come for cake and ice cream on my 17th birthday.
The only big birthday bashes were for the oldsters. I suppose it was because if somebody was that old, you never knew how much longer they had. Might as well see them once a year anyway. Great-grandma Pearce was feated year after year with a big family reunion/birthday celebration from around the time she was 80 until she died at 92. Distant relatives scattered all over Florida came with loads of food prepared at home and loaded into boxes that somehow survived the bumpy dirt roads that brought them all back to the “homeplace.”
Grandpa and other men in the family put up wooden sawhorses with plywood tops covered with quilts and tabletops. The women unloaded all the potluck boxes and spread everything out on the tables, while someone else took pictures of Great-Grandma with various family members. Big time partying where gallons of iced tea were consumed all afternoon until everyone departed bone tired and in time to make it to evening services at church. That’s about as big a birthday celebration as I ever saw growing up.
When I started my own family, we made it a point to make each birthday a special day. The birthday person was allowed to choose the menu and I learned to decorate cakes so that each birthday featured a cake tailored to the particular interests of the feated person. Hubby in turn began making cakes for me each year, and decorating them as well. They were so special it more than made up for any I had missed in childhood.
Things today seem to have changed quite a bit if the Florida couple is indicative of the norm. I don’t mean to sound like a sour puss, but I just can’t help wondering how long their one-year-old will even remember it, or even if he understood what the fuss was all about. They may not realise yet what a hard precedent they’ve set up so early that may prove impossible to follow in years to come. When he’s sixteen or seventeen, or about to attend his first prom . . . well I just don’t know if an ordinary limousine is going to do it. And unless he follows in the footsteps of Michael Jackson, I doubt that pony rides and magicians will work either.