There’s an ill-wind abrewin’. I can feel it coming. I’ve been through squalls like this before. It blows by in the form of my granddaughter’s birthday party. She’s two now and the one-year party didn’t go so well for me. Old guys, I think, should not be subjected to these events. We’ve got enough on our minds, what with arthritis and prostates, than to be exposed to the expectations of baby parties.
It all got off on the wrong foot with the Evite. The Evite? I’m up to my e-neck with e-mails, e-bays, e-trades and e-deposits. I talk to my daughter (her mother) every day or so; is it really necessary to send me an impersonal Evite? Can’t you just ask me on the phone; it’s not like I’m your E-Dad. But nooo; the Evite is the way it’s done and the E-response is the way it’s handled. I held my ground; I did not respond. She held her ground; she got mad at me. Just one of those little family squabbles that go as fast as they came (except in some families where they end up not talking for years.)
The next issue involved my gift. I know my granddaughter. I’ve babysat, played with her, and paid close attention to her preferences. I know what her favorite playthings are and so that’s what I got her. Tupperware! From the response of the Mommy crowd, I might as well have picked up a roll of barbed wire. Why does every gift have to say Mattel or come with a Babies-R-Us gift receipt? You really want to leave it to me to pick out some cutesy little outfit? Odds are it will be something that says “Jets”. And Tupperware – it can be used for years to come as she develops. For Playdough in grade school, Slime in junior high, pot in high school and college. I thought it the perfect gift. Mom thought I was embarrassing. I didn’t care; I played the senility card.
Next dilemma. I forgot to get a card. “She won’t know who it’s from”. Won’t know who it’s from? This is a person who greets every time I show with that “do-I-know-you?” expression. She hasn’t even decided which language she’ll speak. I’d have to physically wear the Tupperware for her to make the connection. The other problem is: Have you seen the price of greeting cards lately? When did they become a luxury item? Between the card and the gift bag, you’re not seeing much change for your twenty. Unless you pick one of those blank generic cards that say nothing. Then you’re stuck trying to be clever; better you should buy the other guy’s overpriced thoughts.
Once we got past these preliminary disputes, I settled in to my customary curmudgeon mode. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy kids of every age. I enjoy watching them play, absolutely love their little laughter, and marvel at their flexibility. I’m even a little envious that their knees will be good for another fifty years. It’s the parental projections I object to.
Apparently every single baby falls into the eightieth percentile for size; the prediction being they’ll be giants. Rolling over in their crib a month ahead of protocol is a clear indication that such advanced motor skills will lead to an easy bronze in the 2036 Olympics. The remarkable ability to audibly signal for a diaper change is only one baby-step away from the Gifted and Talented program. Every mother knows that if her toddler has the cognitive power to link two words together, she’s got an Einstein on her hands. I do not think I’ve ever met a two-year old who was not a genius.
The opening of the presents. I tried to participate but, again, I wore my incompetence on my sleeve. I stood obediently in the rear as one by one, each present was met with a chorus of oohs and aahs from the admiring chorus. When one adorable Osh-Me-Gosh farmer style blue jeans made its debut, I chimed in.
Unfortunately my aah was more pronounced than everyone else’s ooh. The effect of this outburst may have slipped by if not for that glancing furtive stink-eye from my daughter. Baby clothes can be had at Walmart for about five bucks apiece so everyone buys eight or ten pair. I sheepishly sat back down while the crowd gushed over the next two hundred items.
I may have just nodded off or mentally beamed myself to the driving range or fishing pond. I resurfaced in time for the lighting of the candles. The cake, of course, is the crown jewel of every birthday bash from the first to the last, and, although the words “blow” and “candle” mean nothing to a toddler, the significance of the moment did stir my emotions. In part because I was celebrating the life of my granddaughter, and in part because I could now go home