Sunday, January 26, 2014

Observations of a six y/o's birthday

     She giggled with a first-grader’s pride at wearing the prized red-and-white striped Dr. Suess hat. Her aunt jokingly pulled it down over her face to cover her eyes. More giggles.

     The grown-ups prepped the rented picnic-area, whilst the previous party-group dismantled their jumping 'Spider-man' castle. Red-and-white streamers are wrapped around posts, and an enormous ‘Cat-In-The-Hat’ cake sits on one end of a table---‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ over by those no taller than a yard-stick. This party, celebrating a vibrant child, is enjoyed by those of various ages; grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, toddlers, and those who can barely crawl.

     The barbeque's charcoal briquettes morph from black, to ashen-gray, before flames lick at hamburgers, and hot-dogs; the aunt has counted more than one alpha-male who has been happy to man the coals. Father and son toss a Nerf pigskin around while wives, mothers, and grandmothers gather in cliques to cluck. A rainbow of bright and festive gift bags, stretching across half of a picnic table, leaves the promise to the birthday-girl that a veritable loot of presents are in the immediate future. She is far more patient than her aunt had been in her sixth year of life.

     The wind carries a warm and fragrant spring air, as the adults hussle to tape down plastic tablecloths with a balloon-pattern. Cries of both delight and whiney frustration carries on the breeze from the play-area, as a welcome lull in the party-preparations leaves the adults to converse and connect, whilst feeding toddlers Goldfish crackers, and filling styro-foam plates with snack-food; something to tide them over as the alpha-males lean over the barbeque, offering their expertise as to how burgers should look inside; light-pink? No pink? Thin layer of pink?

     The birthday-girl continues to giggle with someone sharing her height and interest in crayons, chips, and salsa. A grandfather hovers, holding a bemused smile as he plays a game of ‘Dr. Suess tic-tac-toe’, while a teenaged uncle feigns interest. But it’s soon time to throw around the Nerf again. The alpha-males are now backing off the enflamed coals, as hotdogs sear and engorge from the heat.

     At one point, the star of the party is perturbed over the teasing, teenaged uncle, and expresses her displeasure quite verbally, followed with a pout. She is the focus of this day; her father and mother tell me that she was lovingly welcomed on May 16th, 2004. “She was born at 4:44 a.m. Maybe we should’ve woken her up at that hour, just to tell her ‘Happy Birthday’,” my brother teases.

    Yeah, right.

    She can demand pretty much anything, this one day of the year. And it’s easy to see the joy in her eyes from something as simple as twirling in circles to make her new pink party-dress flare out. Any new six-year-old can carry off the fashion whilst sporting a ‘Cat-In-The-Hat’ hat. Unlike her nameless aunt.

     “Play nice, ya big bully,” Grandpa says to the teen uncle in jest, as the birthday-girl expresses her displeasure once more at his ease-to-tease with the Nerf. The barbequing alpha-male invites a park-janitor passing by to a seared and juicy hot-dog, receiving a surprised smile of thanks and a quick chat. “Stay away from the Jim Beam steak sauce,” someone jokes, “You don’t want to eat and drive.”

     The haze of full bellies is felt by the party-goers, and the half-lings are guided by doting grandparents to the play-area once again. More shrieks of playful delight can be heard across the park.

     The afternoon fades into pre-twilight, and the warm spring breeze cools with the guidance of overcast clouds that want to scare with droplets of rain. The crickets hidden in the nearby brush keep to their natural tune, seemingly amused at the chorus of off-key humans, singing a song of celebration to the pink-party-dressed star.

     The teen-uncle begins to look bored, and is likely in want of texting; preferably with someone of his generation. But soon he is pulled into a game in which the prize just might be a bigger slice of birthday cake, before his alpha-male authority tosses the Nerf about once more.

     The play-area now seems abandoned, despite the row of dusty cars sitting in the parking lot. The birthday-girl begins to calmly open the gifts that she feels are her due on this day. “Lots of clothes,” she says with a patronizing smile, having now retired the red-and-white striped chapeau; as the day ends, it’s no longer ‘fashionable’. Or, as she may one day say on her sixteenth birthday, “That was so five minutes ago.”

     But, today she is six. Her reality in the now is the family gathered about to celebrate her birth; this first girl-child, this first grand-daughter, this first niece. Her reality tomorrow will be school.

     She’ll be the one on the playground, with the red-and-white striped hat.

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