This post originally appeared on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog.
Dads Slot Cars, the serendipity of several Harry Potter films being released within days of my twins' birthday, the monster truck rally that my husband handled completely and I got to miss (hmmm, maybe that's my favorite).
The most creative party I ever threw was for my youngest son when he said he wanted a Chinese birthday. When I asked him what that was, he said: "I don't know. I'm sure you'll think of something." So, we had fortune cookies, ate a Chinese checkers cake (with gum balls instead of marbles), and gave everyone a set of homemade tangrams.
It was great — but not as great as my Best Birthday Ever.
Mine was the year I turned 11. My mom was recovering from major surgery, so she left the birthday celebration up to my dad (although, even as I write that, I realize that she probably planned the whole thing).
First, I got a groovy new outfit: a short, red split skirt that revealed navy blue hot pants underneath, topped with a crisp white poly/cotton pucker blouse with rows and rows of elastic. Before you block that image from your mind, be sure to add in a mouthful of braces. I thought I looked fabulous.
After presents, my stinky little brother stayed home with my mom, and my dad took me out for the evening. We drove to downtown Detroit — still vibrant and living high off low gas prices and big American cars. We parked and went to a big, beautiful movie theater where they were showing Love Story, that classic weeper with Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw. It was my first GP movie (in the days before PG or PG-13) and they even said the F-word. I think I fell in love with both Ryan and Ali, who looked beautiful even as she was dying. I was the only person in the theater who walked out with a big grin on my face. I felt so grown up.
After the movie, we went to a fancy restaurant with valet parking and everything. When we pulled up in the car, the valet opened my door and greeted me by name, wishing me a happy birthday. Everyone in the restaurant seemed to know my name. I don't remember the dinner, but I do remember the sparkler on the birthday cake and the whole room singing happy birthday to me.
During dinner, my dad told me that he wanted to show me a wonderful time — not just because it was my birthday, but because I was becoming a young lady. A dear friend of his had older daughters, and this friend told my dad that he always took his girls to nice places so that when they started dating, they would be impressed by the man, not by the trappings. My dad told me that story for the first time on my eleventh birthday and many times thereafter.
I hope when my children remember their Best Birthday Ever, it isn't just about the toys and the cake and the party. I hope somewhere deep down, they recognize the real gift we've tried to give them — that they are loved and cherished and worthy of being treated well. Thanks Dad.
This is an original Chicago Moms Blog post. When Susan Bearman is busy planning birthday parties for her large family, she can be found writing at Two Kinds of People and The Animal Store Blog.
Photo credit: Fireworks – sparkler by tim & annette