My youngest daughter’s birthday party was the first family social event to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. A hundred years ago (way back in mid-March), she was scheduled to have an indoor pool party with her besties. Two days before the scheduled event, the KY schools shut down. We nixed the pool but met up with friends at the park. That was back before we really understood anything about the virus, so we have a slew of pictures of pink cheeked seven-year-olds snuggling on park benches and eating cupcakes.
It’s all very cute and germy.
As with many things over the last seven months, birthday celebrations have gone through a few iterations. In the very early days, we cancelled everything full stop. Then we got creative. We got inspired. We got into our cars and paraded past people’s houses, honking our horns and waving joyfully. A local business did a quick pivot from bounce house party rentals to wooden lawn number rentals so that families could announce the big day in style.
Zoom parties were a thing, too, at least for grownups. I attended one, for which we were each asked to bring a weird kitchen implement. Guests took turns trying to figure out what on earth we were each holding. It was hilarious. My son attended participated in a Zoom party that consisted mostly of the kids taking turns as host and changing each other’s screen names to things like “poop head.”
Because, you know, they’re ten.
But then, after a while, we stopped feeling creative and we just started feeling tired. I know you understand. Weariness set in as we all realized this thing was going to last for months, not weeks. The Zoom happy hours lost their luster. The car parades dwindled. Online social connection just wasn’t doing it for us anymore.
So it was that we found ourselves facing two kid’s birthdays, just three weeks apart this fall. School had started virtually, and it was not going well. My kids missed their friends and their school and their extended family and their everything.
Okay, mom. This is your moment. It’s time to dust off the magic wand and find some birthday sparkle somewhere. It might be under the couch, along with 52 pairs of unmatched socks. Lord knows ain’t nobody been cleaning down there recently.
What do children want more than anything else for their birthdays? Aside from technology, I mean. They definitely want technology most. But if we rule out phones, iPads, and video games, what children want is sugar. Lots of sugar. And friends. But mostly sugar.
Enter the Mobile Sno-Cone Truck.
There is nothing more exciting to my children than a roving sno-cone truck. Nothing. Its appearance at festivals, ball games, and other community gatherings is the highlight of any event. And it turns out that this motorized shed of sugary goodness will make scheduled appearances in your driveway. You pre-pay for a bunch of treats, invite some buddies, and turn ‘em loose. The nice people even give your kid a birthday bag with color-changing plastic cups and cheap slap bracelets.
They were perfect – and I mean that sincerely.
Thus it was that my son and his buddies achieved epic new levels of sugar high on a September afternoon, slurping contentedly on disgusting concoctions that involved half a dozen or more flavored syrups all mixed together.
His sister took notes, compared options, then opted for a more sedate variation on the theme: pizza and brownies on the lawn. It rained, of course, but we have a gigantic screened porch that still allowed for some social distancing.
Apart from the fact that I drastically over-estimated how much pizza pre-teen girls will eat, the event was a success. They responsibly wore masks whenever they weren’t actively chewing and seemed to have a great time.
Not that I was allowed anywhere near the festivities, mind you. These are almost-teenagers, after all, and moms are so uncool. I got a big hug from the birthday girl later that evening, though, so I knew it had been a success.
Take that, COVID. Birthdays for the win.