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Party Animal

Last weekend, I threw myself a party for Simon’s second birthday. No, that was not a typo. And to be fair, it’s not what I set out to do, even as that was the indisputable truth about the situation. Worse than my error in judgment is my appalling lack of guilt over the situation.

It all started with the invitations. I didn’t have time to make them this year, and the really cute ones I found online came in a minimum order of 25. They arrived on Rosh Hashanah, and the night I sat down to address them I had the new year, new beginnings, new friendships, family, community, and tradition on my mind. Any time I asked myself if I should invite someone, I ¬†erred on the side of inclusion. Cousins with no kids that I’m delighted to be back in touch with? Why not? My synagogue’s new cantor, who happens to be a friend of a friend and has a brilliant and interesting husband and a lovely two-year-old daughter? You bet! Shannon and Christopher from the shop and playgroup in my neighborhood? Why ever not?

Thus, I had no forced stop until all 25 envelopes were addressed. And then, to my surprise and delight, the rsvps began to arrive. Nearly everyone said yes. Uh oh!

We don’t have room for 37 people in our house, and I didn’t have time to cook for this large of a group coming on the heels of Simon’s illness. So we ordered pizzas and relied on good weather and our new deck to save the day. The pizzas arrived right on time, the weather was lovely, and Matt worked hard to make the yard respectable (minus the tree down in the yard, which is beyond our immediate control). The only wrinkle in our otherwise brilliant plan was our son’s basic temperament and the fact that his recovery was not yet complete: It was all too much for him.

He made his peace with things by the end by hanging out in his play house and socializing in small groups. He made it through Happy Birthday without collapsing into tears, which made me very happy. But there was no way he was going to open presents in the thick of such a crowd, so we had to apologize to our guests and tell them that we’d be opening presents later.

Nearly a week on, two presents still sit wrapped on our dining-room table. We’re taking our time so Simon can really savor each new toy. And for any of you who were at the party, you’ll be getting a picture of him savoring said present with your thank-your note. It’s our way of seeking absolution for a social faux pas.

I’ve learned yet another lesson from this experience. Next year’s party will be smaller and more in line with what Simon can handle. But I have to admit that I had a wonderful time. I was pleasantly surprised that my cousins came and stayed. I loved extending a gesture of friendship to new acquaintances and being taken up on it. I relished watching people I care about get to know each other better.

When Matt and I left San Francisco to move back home, we knew that we were giving up a solid circle of friends, we knew that family could not completely fill the void, and we knew that it would take a long time to recreate what we spent eight years building in California. Our job isn’t over, of course; there’s much work still to be done. But man, when I saw 37 people going in and out my back door, sitting on my deck, and walking in my back yard, I felt a sense of exuberant peace. I felt at home. It wasn’t the best party for Simon, and I’ll do better next year. But it was food for my soul, and I won’t lose the happy glow for some time.

One Response to “Party Animal”

  1. blg says:

    I would not beat yourself up too badly about Simon not opening all his birthday gifts on the day. Having lived through so many frantic hectic Christmas mornings, I think opening presents spread out, is way better, for kids and for grwon ups.
    Now, when Doug and I get a gift in the mail, we open it as soon as we are together. That way we enjoy it fully and are not thinking about the next present. Having that time makes writing thank you notes a bit easier, too.
    Your idea of sending a snapshot with your thank you notes is marvelous. I just wish I got more thank you notes, but that is another rant for another day.

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