Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Birthday Time

Two weeks to go. July 5th is my son's first birthday. He's long been toddling, so will officially leave babyhood very soon.

In my family, there is an unspoken rule that a child's first birthday must be celebrated with a big party. Since Little A is the first grandson on his father's side, we figured we would have no choice but to celebrate. My first idea was a pirate party. How cute would that be? Eye patches for everyone, Little A in his red and white striped Marimekko top from godmother P in Finland, Peter Pan-inspired games. Big A nixed the idea - he said too many people would have the same theme since Disney's big Pirates of the Caribbean franchise had just released its final movie in the trilogy. He was right. At a christening, we overheard the baby's mother saying she was already organising the pirate-themed party for her son's first birthday.

Big A wanted a manly theme. Knights, then. And princesses for the girls (though he preferred Knights and Wenches, with activities like rape and pillage, looting the town and the like.) Excited, I started planning. A 3-stanza poem would comprise the invitation, and it would be printed on tea-stained parchment and rolled up like a scroll. We would hire a bouncy castle, or one shaped like a dragon, and looked into the cost of having Shetland ponies for the kids to ride. We bought plastic swords for the boys and costume jewelry for the girls. Art activities would be shield and cone hat decoration.

But Little A's birthday falls during Manila's rainy season, and this year was a particularly stormy one. Then his grandmother fell ill with a mosquito-borne fever that could be potentially fatal. So the party in my parents' huge garden needed to be rethought.

Indoor venues large enough to hold bouncy castles and tables and chairs for 40 children and 80 adults in our area were not easy to come by without huge cost. Discouraged, I packed away the swords and jewelry and decided to just take Little A and his cousins to Gymboree and then out for a meal and cake. The Knight party could wait for another year, and in the meantime, we could go on a trip with the money we would save.

Two Sundays ago, we went to inquire about a small private party at Gymboree, only to find out it was closed on Sundays. No matter, there was a backup plan. A restaurant with a massive indoor play area had just opened nearby, so we went to see that. Little A was asleep, so he and I stayed in the car while Big A when down to get information, phone numbers and the like.

Half an hour later, he came back with a huge smile on his face. He loved it and immediately booked a 20 child party. I was to take care of the details and we would confirm the following weekend.

Since I hadn't seen the inside, all I had to go by were friends' photos of the place. I selected a menu, spoke to someone on the phone and told them I wanted to see the loot bags and birthday cake that came with the package when we made the confirmation deposit. Unsure about the quality or quantity of the giveaways, I purchased additional ones and had stickers made to label them as Little A's 1st birthday thank you tokens.

I was pleasantly surprised the following weekend, not only by the cleanliness of the play area (Little A is still at the stage of licking everything in sight) but by the loot bags, the cake (though there was no telling what it would taste like!) and even the invitations they provided. We sealed the deal, and in 2 weeks, Little A and 19 of his friends get to run riot for 2 hours under careful supervision by qualified staff. He will turn one with a celebration, that much is certain.

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