The Birthday After Tomorrow

It is hard to imagine that it has been three years since my beautiful baby boy was fiercely ripped from the splayed belly of my anesthetized wife. Exercising his first act of defiance, he managed to work his head into the birthing canal, and then got distracted by the funny moaning sounds coming from outside the womb. So he stayed and entertained himself by fiddling with his umbilical cord and kicking his mother’s innards around. So, a cesarean was scheduled and the doctor pulled the unsuspecting child from his safely nestled position. Realizing that he had been removed from his comfort zone and was now in a world full of adults and responsibility, he exercised his second act of defiance by urinating on the nurse that brought him into this world.

Over 1000 days of stubbornness and pee later, that boy’s parents found themselves planning a third birthday party. This was the third opportunity that my wife, Miranda, had to abandon all sane and rational thinking and decorate the entire house with a themed assortment of crate paper streamers, posters, balloons, and individualized accoutrements for each invited guest.

In Zachary’s first year, the theme revolved around the early child development DVD series “Baby Einstein”. For those of you who might not be familiar, this series showcases a colorful spectrum of toys and an equally colorful spectrum of children all set to music played exclusively on a xylophone. Occasionally, a sock puppet made to look like a capuchin on Zoloft appears to laugh at a word that comes up on the screen. For celebrating my son’s first year of life, the cartoon creatures who all claimed to be smarter than me, filled the halls of our home and wished my son, who had by this point been partially raised by the developmental series, a happy birthday.
For the second birthday, Zachary was old enough to decide, through a series of grunts and shrill cries, what kind of decorations he wanted. This also involved us giving him two options and showing an obvious bias towards the decorations that Miranda had already bought a few days after his first birthday party. So, the decision was made that Charlie and Lola would be the second leitmotif. Turning up the notch on birthday themes that are unfamiliar and unsettling, Charlie and Lola are a British cartoon brother and sister who have indoctrinated my son so that he now speaks of crumpets at dinner, trolleys at the grocery store, and bangers in what I can only hope is an acceptable situation since I am still unsure of the meaning.

So, then came year number three. After everything from the invitations to the cake had to be meet the ante of previous years, we pushed Zachary towards choosing, now with much more impressive verbalization, the theme of pirates. I have commented on Zachary’s disturbing fascination with pirates and pirate culture before (which you can read about here; I love how I cross reference myself). We thought we would celebrate that fixation with a party that was sure to provide him with several pirate themed gifts, apparel, and weaponry.

It was sometime between hanging up the jolly roger flags around the house and meticulously decorating cupcakes in the shape of pirate faces (so, around 1:30 the morning before the big day) that I repeated the same complaint that my wife had been hearing from me for the past few years.

“You know, I never had a birthday party.”

My wife never buys my solicitations for pity very easily. “Of course you had a birthday party,” she said. “Everyone has a birthday party growing up.” But, I hadn’t. In my home, the special nature of birthday’s came from being able to open up a present before school, which was usually clothes to wear to school that day, getting a fiver in the mail from Grandma, and then choosing what meal to eat that night. Though, it may seem sad to someone like my wife who had a progressively larger animal to ride each year with her gigantic pool of friends, I really didn’t mind. I had been raised with a protective anti-social personality so that birthdays were to be spent with family and hopefully reading a book with big vocabulary words; not with friends causing a ruckus and playing violent donkey pinning rituals. I actually genuinely enjoyed just picking out the meal that I wanted for my birthday dinner, especially when I could pick something considered torturous to my older sisters’ appetites.

My wife still didn’t believe me, and so she told me she would ask my mother. A few days later, my mother, ashamedly, confirmed to her the sad truth. I never did have a birthday party. But, it really isn’t that sad. I feel that I turned out ok, even with my social ineptitude and haunting recurrent nightmares of unspeakable things. But who am I to deny that my child be treated like a King for one day out of the year, as opposed to the other 364 where he is treated as a mere heir to the kingdom.

And so, we decorated every inch of the house, prepared a wide array of foods for our guests, and purchased everything that Target had to offer with a pirate on it, including a grueling non-fiction book that discussed the intricacies of Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden. And, in a way, I can experience vicariously the joys of a child’s birthday party by seeing my child’s face as he makes his way through the gauntlet of balloons and streamers to see the smiling faces of friends and family offering him mounds and mounds of toys, cake, candy, and adulation. At this rate of ever increasing expectations, the theme of next year’s fourth soirée will be Alexander the Great’s conquest of Asia Minor. At least there will be an elephant ride.


Brian R said...

Make sure you get him a cake that is mostly frosting. I still remember the Oscar the Grouch cake I got for my 4th or 5th birthday. It came from Reams, and it was at least 80% frosting. It made me sick, and I loved every minute of it.

Kara said...

My, my childhood resembled more of yours, and so does my children, as long as I get my way. I only ever had parties for 2 of my birthdays thrown by my family, which I had to fight for. We had the cold pizza one sunday birthday morning as per requested, then my 17 or 18th birthday you wife helped orchestrated my kidnapping for my birthday morning. My daughters ended up going to 3 birthday parties last week.... you and I must not be in style in our way of thinking any more.

doug said...

Bangers are sausages. Tasty, delicious sausages...

mh said...

I will get with your wife. Maybe you will have a party for your birthday this year! Who knows!

mh said...

Oh! Who are Charlie and Lola?