This was supposed to run Sunday. We were hungover. Kids, too. Not booze. Birthday.
Since Christmas the birthday boy had been counting down. Since February, the birthday planner had been bringing boxes home from work and staying up well past midnight to construct Bowsers and Boos for what would be a real live action video game laid out on the park district gym floor.
My wife throws incredible kid birthday parties. Many people have told her, post party, that she missed her calling. Last year it was superheroes featuring me in tights and a mask as the Riddler. Me, tights, kids shooting me with silly string. For our daughter she built a castle maze in our backyard. The only thing that is outdone by her parties is her ambition. No matter how grand the party it will fail to realize how she envisioned it.
For the Pac-Man Super-Mario Angry-Bird live action party, we agreed to only 15 kids. No way we’d be able to do whatever the hell she was planning with any more kids in two hours. And no way it was going beyond two hours. She invited 25. 26 showed. Birthday math.
Birthday math is the same phenomenon that stretches a birthDAY into a birth week, or, may the birth gods help you, if the party and the day are not in the same week, then it could be birthMONTH. 16, 21, 18, 1, 10 even—I didn’t know turning 6 would be a milestone birthday.
Birthweek started with the boy’s first loose tooth. He was unusually quiet and introspective, his lips sealed and his tongue working his cheeks.
The next day he sidled up to me at my desk, silent, stricken, as if he’d woken up in a foreign land. “Dad,” working his tongue, “I think I swallowed my tooth.”
He’s been saving his money for the Lego Death Star. 400 fucking dollars. He was counting on these teeth. I told him he’d have to poo in a bucket for a week. He thought this unfunny.
I compensated for it that night, with an elaborate note on pink tissue paper and ribbons and fairy assurances.
Then it was his birthDAY, where he got to choose his meals, and open any gifts that had come in the mail. Then came party day.
In the party room at the park district were a dozen tables with slingshots and angry birds and green pigs. In the gym was a real live action Super Mario Brothers course featuring goombas to stomp, coins to collect, pipes to trespass, fireballs to dodge, and a princess to save. Taped to the floor, under the Mario maze, was a half-gym sized Pac-Man course with Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde costumes. There were prizes!
Two months to create, two hours to setup, for a two-hour party. Birthday math. A partial accounting amounted to 3 minivan trips, 26 kids, a dozen adults, 40 homemade angry bird cupcakes, 36 packages of skittles, 30 cds of classic and contemporary video game theme songs, hundreds of chocolate coins, four rolls of painter tape, two dozen boxes turned into portals, one Donkey Kong piñata, 200 balloons, 36 chocolate Mario mustaches, two boxes and one folding table of prizes, and more. All made (except mustaches) by my wife. There was only one underlying motive to her madness, though: you only turn six once.
Adult birthdays aren’t fun; they’re scary. So kid parties offer an opportunity to enjoy fully and only the moment. Does the build up, the prep, the planning, all add up? It’s birthday math, of course it does.