This is a big week for me, folks. Tomorrow I will venture into foreign territory, a land so fraught with danger for people like me that I have had the good sense to stay far, far away from it for my entire life. But I can no longer avoid it. The time to fulfill my destiny has come:
I am throwing a children’s birthday party.
It’s not as simple as it sounds. For one thing, I’m me. I have the anti-charism of cooking, and also an anti-charism of working with young children. On top of that, this is one of our two daughters who are only a year apart in age, and whose birthdays are only four weeks apart — so I’ve spent hours agonizing over the guest list so that we don’t have everyone show up to one party and not the other. (I mused aloud in front of one of the grandmothers that maybe we could just do one party for both of them, and she looked at me as if she were wondering if she should call CPS now or wait until I was out of the room.) My normal party planning strategy is to just keep adding alcohol until everyone is having a good time, but I hear that that’s not an option with six-year-olds. Then there’s the fact that Kathryn Whitaker is going to be there. Just look at some of the parties she throws! Maybe I’ll tell her that I’m trying out a new casual-relaxed party motif I found on Pinterest, on a board called When You Just Can’t Deal Anymore. I’ll show her around by saying, “You see that over here we have the Goldfish station, which is…a plastic bowl of goldfish crackers. Over in the living room my children are playing a game called Take the Toy from Your Sibling and Scream, and out back the boys are trying to see who can stay outside longest without collapsing from heat stroke. We’ll sing Happy Birthday in an hour or so. Have fun!”
Okay, in reality, I’m sure it will be a perfectly lovely time. We’re having a friend who’s talented in all the ways that I’m not come over to run a cookie-decorating station, and she’s also making some cake pops that are delicious to the point that they should probably be illegal. I think my problem is Pinterest. Every time I think of how great it will be, I type in birthday on Pinterest and see parties where it looks like Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, and the Ringling Brothers circus came together to throw the event. Worse, occasionally one of my daughters will be looking over my shoulder, and she’ll point casually, as if ordering off a menu, and say, “I want that for my birthday party.” (I might let these kids have cell phone or Facebook accounts in their early teens, but they’re not allowed to be on Pinterest until they’re out of the house!)
I want to congratulate myself for the fact that I made it through an entire post last week without complaining about how hard it was to find those Skeletoes shoes in my size. Perhaps my magnanimity was simply due to the fact that I remember well the last time I bought running shoes, when the purchase meant interacting with real people instead of clicking buttons on my computer and making vague angry noises.
Back in 2001 I had one of my bi-annual “I’M GOING TO GET IN SHAPE SERIOUSLY THIS TIME” spasms, and I went to one of our great local RunTex stores to get custom-fitted shoes. The salesman was a recent immigrant — I believe he said his home country was Kenya — and he could not have been more helpful. He examined my gait, took a close look at the shape of my foot, and then took my measurements. And took my measurements again. Then again, just to be sure. He scratched his head, and said he needed to check something in the back. I was the only customer in the store, and so I could hear the conversation in the back room that ensued. He said something about needing a ladies’ size 12, and a female voice responded with a correcting tone, as if she were helping him articulate himself in English. “No, is a WOMAN, ” he insisted. More murmuring from the female voice, the gist of her comment being that only a man could wear a shoe of that size. “No, WOMAN. LADY. Is WOMAN.” A mild argument ensued, in which I gathered that the person he was talking to seemed to think that they were having a frustrating language barrier issue. Finally, both of them walked out, collecting themselves as if trying not to give me any hints of the discussion they just had.
“Hi, ma’am, I just need to check your size quickly, ” the female manager said. I put my foot on the metal plate, and she slid the measuring device down until it rested on my big toe. Size 12. She seemed to suppress a gasp.
“I told you, is WOMAN!” the salesman said.
Have you seen this photo meme that Cari Donaldson does, where she has people submit pictures for every hour within a 24-hour period? I think this is one of the most creative linkups out there. It gives me chills every time I see it. There’s something deeply comforting about seeing intimate shots of other people’s lives, and being able to know what you were doing at that exact moment. I think that’s one of the things that always intrigues us about moments that capture an entire nation’s attention, like, “Where were you on 9/11?” or “Where were you when you heard that the Challenger exploded?” Where were you? is such an incarnational question. It’s rooted in our desire to orient ourselves in space and time on this earth, and speaks to how the moments we share can make us feel connected to one another, even if we’re not sharing them in the same physical place.
And now I have gotten myself way too far into the philosophical deep end, and will wrap it up by saying that there’s something very cool about Cari’s meme and you should check it out.
Three is not my favorite age. I mean, it’s good in the sense that they’re “de-blobbing” (my husband’s affectionate term for a child developing from babyhood to kid-hood), and you see more and more glimpses of the awesome human being this kid is becoming. The downside, though, is that they have all the willfullness and lack of self control of a two-year-old, combined with the strength and loudness of a four-year-old.
This morning I was trying to get all the kids ready for swim lessons, and my three-year-old refused to get dressed, as usual. Every time, day in and day out, both morning and evening, it is as if we are encountering this activity for the very first time. She turned to run away — which would then be followed by throwing herself on the floor and kicking violently as if to symbolize what would happen to anyone who got near her with items of clothing, per our kabuki routine — but then she had a thought. She stopped, turned to me, pointed her finger, and demanded, “Be Wobot Mommy!” This is a concept that amuses her endlessly, when I use a monotone voice and jerk around in sharp movements as Robot Mommy. I wasn’t really in the mood; in fact, I was tired, and hoping to just get this over with as quickly as possible. But then I noticed that she wasn’t running away, and hadn’t even fallen down on the floor yet, and in fact seemed to be quite enchanted by this prospect. And so I responded, “ROBOT. MOMMY. SAYS. TIME. TO. PUT. ON. SWIMSUIT.” And, per my instructions, I continued to lurch around the house, my arms bent at the elbows, my head moving only in side-to-side or up-and-down movements, all through breakfast.
It’s clear who’s in charge here.
Your wine tip of the week: If you’re in a hot climate, before you drink your red wine, put it in the fridge for 15 minutes or so. I once heard somewhere that red wine was meant to be served at Mediterranean room temperature (which is different than central Texas summer room temperature) and so we cool our reds down by just a few degrees before drinking. It makes a surprising amount of difference!
And on that note, have a great weekend!