Sunday, November 22, 2009

Birthday Bash

My son was born on Thanksgiving and now, five years later, his birthday falls on Turkey Day again. Don’t worry – you’ll be treated to a FULL recapitulation of his birth and how I labored during Thanksgiving dinner with my whole family in attendance. But that’s not the subject of today’s post, Today’s post is about

Kids Birthday Parties,

Because that’s what we spent this past Saturday throwing. Yes, I’m aware we had the party before his actual birthday and trust me, as a superstitious gal, it’s something I avoided for several years. But those of you whose child’s birthday falls on a holiday, particularly a holiday where you get a four-day weekend and people tend to travel, know that all bets are off with party planning. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get the asses in the seats, Or the asses jumping up and down on the sofas in your condo’s common room, whatever the case may be. I can’t have the party on Thanksgiving weekend and after that its dicey because nowadays, people started celebrating Christmas in late November and by the first weekend in December everyone’s already booked with holiday parties. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo. Weekend before Thanksgiving -- perfect time for a party.

As you know from reading my posts about my own birthday, I love to celebrate. And not in a low-key kind of way either, but a balls-to-the-wall, put-your-hand-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care sort of way. Several weeks before the event, I begin singing, “Hey Primo, it’s your birthday/ Let’s party like it’s your birthday/ Going to drink Bacardi like it’s your birthday.” I don’t rent out the Russian Tea Room and offer pony rides or a Venetian hour and our parties won’t end up on MTV or anything. But I do like to bring in entertainment -- mostly because I’ve found it makes the party a thousand times more enjoyable for me. The times when I’ve tried to manage it myself, doing arts and crafts and games, I’ve been so stressed gathering the supplies and forcing kids to partake, to say nothing of the ulcers that result from watching them trash our place when they choose not to participate in my brilliant activities, that I end up hating birthdays. So this year, since I decided to hire a magician.

The great thing about living in New York is that the magician you get for your kid’s birthday party is likely to have performed at the Gershwin and entertained Peter Sarsgaard’s kid for his birthday. I interviewed a bunch of candidates, and here are the factors I considered in making my decision:

How much do you cost?

Do you wear creepy makeup or perform any tricks which might be interpreted as scary?

Is the bunny in your act a real rabbit? (Dealbreaker.)

After this rigorous interviewing process, there was one magician who stood out from the rest -- Amazing Ken, who uses not just a live rabbit but a live goldfish, which he then gifts to the birthday child. I figured with so many live animals, I got a magic show and petting zoo all at once.

For party food, my grandmother insisted on making homemade pizzas for the lot of us. And I do mean insisted.

“Why you gonna spend a fortune and buy dat lousy pizza?” she said, “Save you money I makea da pizza.”

I know you’re not going to believe my, but my grandmother actually enjoys waking at 4 am – no shit – and starting to cook. OK, I’m not entirely sure she likes the cooking per se, but she does enjoy the gratification of feeling like a martyr and the idea of saving money.

My kid sister who is in business school offered to make ogre-face cupcakes. And my mother volunteered to make her world-famous dip with accompanying vegetables.

I bought four thousand dollars worth of crappy party bag supplies and balloons (why does this shit cost so much money? Next year, I’ll save all the cardboard boxes I get for a few months and give each kid one of those -- with a marker – as a party favor.)

And thus, a party is born.

Amazing Ken was perfectly amazing, and kept the kids – even the two year-olds – rapt for the whole show. A highlight was when he brought Primo up as a helper, and of course Sec, never one to get short shrift. Jumped up to stand right beside him.

“Who’s this?” asked Amazing Ken, “Is this your wife?”

Uproarious laughter. Sec faux-guffaws although she doesn’t have the foggiest idea what is so funny.

“No?” giggles Primo.

“Is she your business partner?”

Cackles of laughter from the kids. Sec covers her mouth and bends over like it’s just too much, she can’t take the funny.

“No,” replies Primo.

“Then who is she?” thunders Amazing ken.

“She’s a BABY!” exclaims Primo, like Sec is just some strange child whose wandered in off the street, means nothing to him, just a face in the crowd.

To which my daughter shrieks, “I’m NOT A BABY! I’m a GUUUUUURRL!"

Magic wands were made floppy. Clothing was set on fire. A real, live rabbit was conjured and finally, one scared-looking goldfish was produced and adopted by our family.

All in all, a whopping success. Especially considering that a few hours after the party, in the middle of the night, Primo woke with an explosive case of the runs and was stuck to the toilet all day Sunday.

But he had tons of new presents to play with while convalescing. And a new pet. We named him Swimmy and got him a spacious tank with pink gravel and a tree to hide behind and the spot of honor on the dresser in the kids’ room. Cross your fingers for old Swimmy. We’d love for him to last more than a day.