When I woke the kids up in the morning and told them it was their birthday and there were gifts for them on the dining table, they jumped out of bed so fast I couldn’t believe my eyes! They ripped their gifts open with an abandon you only see in kids their age. Then they fought over which books were whose. Meanwhile, Amit and I fought over who was going to drop them to school, and of course in the end we both went and we were horribly late getting to office, which was all my fault because I didn’t want to rush and hurry on their birthday (and it had nothing whatsoever to do with my better half snuggling up in the sheets until practically 6.45!)
They looked absolutely charming in their new frocks. The great benefit of letting them dress in tattered old jeans and T-shirts all the time is that when they do wear frocks, they are practically unrecognisable. At school, Mrini was uncharacteristically (but expectedly) shy entering class with her bag of cookies. Their teacher very sweetly asked us if we wanted to be present when they sang for the girls, at 10.30. Regretfully, we said no – we couldn’t possibly leave school for office at 8.30 and be back at 10.30! But at 12.30 I was waiting for them at daycare with another bag of cookies each.
I went to pick them up around 4.30 that afternoon and found them gorging on cake! Their daycare had not only organised a cake for them, but had also bought them some gifts! Wow – that was so sweet of them! I waited for them to finish eating, then I waited for them to finish ripping open their gifts, amid much prompting and interest from the other kids. At last I tore them away from daycare and it was close to 5.
Disaster! The cook had told me sternly that I needed to be home by 5.30 if I expected her to make channa, mattar-paneer, and puris for dinner. And home was a good half-hour drive away, interrupted by stops to pick up birthday cake, candles, and return gifts.
Not that we were going to have a party, oh no! The party would be on Saturday. Who’s going to organise a party on a weekday? Not me! And besides, how can we expect people to trudge all the way across town on a weekday evening? So on the day of their birthday we planned only to cut a cake and have a nice dinner. S&S said they would join us, and S&P said they would too. Then I invited Chris as well, and the kids invited Chris’ nephew Tim, and that of course meant that Chris’ niece Linda was invited too. And of course, all these people stay in various far-flung areas of town, but that didn’t stop them from making the long, tiring drive to our place in the middle of the week.
Meanwhile, I managed to scrape together return gifts for all the kids because, even if I thought this was not a party, kids who brought gifts and sang the birthday song and ate cake expected return gifts when they were leaving. It turned out that such kids also expected balloons, but in this they were to be disappointed. Balloons, joker caps, masks, paper plates, streamers, and all that jazz was for Saturday – I certainly didn’t have time to organise all that on a weekday. As it is, I got home a scant ten minutes before the first guests arrived, so the first guests were handed the task of wrapping the return gifts! At least I had managed to procure a few bottles of bubbles, which kept the kids busy while the return gifts were being wrapped. By the time the other guests arrived, Amit was home, the cooking was underway, the kids had been changed into their party clothes, and things were almost under control.
There were the usual hitches and delays in cutting the cake. Everyone spent a good 15 minutes hunting for candles, which both Amit and I had bought. Mine were easily found, of course (me being so organized and all…) but Amit’s had gone missing and a massive search and rescue operation was launched because he was adamant that those candles and no other would be used. At last they were found (I had thrown the bag with paper plates into the store room without inspecting the contents too closely) … and then we had to find a fresh battery for the camera. Two cakes had been lying on the table, the focus of attention of several kids at all times, and had managed to survive all the delays largely unscathed. Mrini managed to lick every part of the knife that was to be used for cutting the cake, without actually damaging her cake in the process.
Finally the candles were found and lit and blown out and lit and blown out again (because the photographer – Amit – wasn’t ready) and the song was sung and the cake was cut and eaten. From there, the evening proceeded on plan as dinner was served, followed by ice cream and more cake. The kids all managed to settle down and play together in the living room, leaving the parents to eat in some kind of peace. No disasters occurred, no grievous bodily harm was done, no lasting enmities were formed, and none of the food and drink was spilt or went short.
By the end of the day, as I cleared up the storm and tried to restore order to the house, I realized something. Regardless of what I might have thought or planned… with just four kids on the guest list and no balloons or streamers… and despite it being a school night… we’d just had a birthday party!