I’m on the train to my grandmothers ninetieth birthday in New York City. The best present I ever gave her was probably her first great grand children. And when they were born she was hip and with it enough to come out to Port Jeff and meet them. My grandfather was still able to explain to the NICU how business ought to be done.
Our immediate family unit has finally recovered from last weekend’s birthday madness, which included cupcakes at school, a birthday dinner for six kids and eight adults at my parents house, a bar mitzvah, and a roller skating birthday party for fourteen Sunday afternoon. After years of making what felt like six cakes I made zippo this time and my mom actually did the honors of the birthday dinner. (thanks mom)
The birthday party has always been an event that required much negotiating, usually some tantrums, and plenty of advil for the parents. After two sessions of free Sunday roller skating the kids decided that was their dream party. On Sat and Sun the city turns the rec center basket-ball court into a roller rink including the skates with four wheels and cheezie music. The whole operation is free including the cheetoes. The original itinerary involved a roller skating play based on a book series called Warriors; Jonathan’s current addiction. They also had planned boys against girl’s derby style races. (Neither of them can really skate) The décor at home was glittery silver and gold. Jonathan was so wired he literally could not keep his feet on the ground and Rebecca was busy putting together an outfit that involved black and white leggings, a mod sheath dress and lime green cowboy boots. At the rink, the first excitement was getting roller skates on 14 kids while the rec center ladies looked slightly terrified. Thankfully one other Dad and two of my students whom my children ADORE had agreed to help. At least half the kids immediately seemed to loose all muscle and bone which resulted in a gumby splat. One was so kamakazi that we were all sure he would break every bone in his body and I’d have to explain to his parents why he was in traction. We never get through a birthday party without Rebecca having a complete meltdown. This time she had two. The first was because Jonathan “pushed” her roller skating. It’s unclear to me whether he actually did—he’s capable of the impulse but has no control on skates so he could easily have pushed by accident. In any case she collapsed on the court in a fit of tears prompting the girls to go into a sort of teeny supportive huddle and one of the boys to offer to take Jonathan out for her. Manuel was meanwhile generous enough to take Eli away and fetch the ice cream cake, which allowed him to miss the walk home with FOURTEEN 7-9 year olds. I went into bossy mode and explained all of the rules—which they mostly ignored. But they did all make it back safely in time for a lord of the flies afternoon in the backyard. The adults hung out on the deck panopticon style saying things like “no stix, no you can not tie her up, no you can not go in the house, etc…..” Some of the kids had a pretty good racket of tattling going and at one point I threatened to put all fourteen of them in time out. Rebecca at that point had her second melt down explaining that the boys had RUINED it.
Shortly after the party I took to my bed, thinking I had a dose of birthday fatigue. It turned out to be a 24-hour stomach bug. This impeccable timing left Manuel with a horrendous bed time—not only did he have post birthday hysteria but it was the night after daylight savings time. Since Rebecca had already had two giant meltdowns she was relatively under control. Jonathan had about a 75-minutes tantrum, which I’m told involved a sort of break dancing fling out of the bed and other impressive physical feats. Rebecca moved to the guest room, which caused even more screaming. And Eli could not "sweep" because Jonathan was making too much noise. Manuel pointed out that the other reason he could not “sweep” involved the kids running around his room shooting droids and stopping to sit at his desk and do some work.