A few months ago, I started thinking about Eliza’s second birthday party. Specifically, the day that David and I picnicked at Lafayette Park and discovered the joys of a fenced-in green area. It’s a beautiful park, a safe place, nearby restrooms–perfect! Only problem, of course, would be that we’d need to haul all our goods into the park, along with two kids and any other playthings we’d need for a party.
The more I thought about it, the more I despaired of how we’d do a party for Eliza. Sure, she’d be unlikely to remember it, but she has actual friends whose names she knows, and she loves going to the park, but good god, a baby and a toddler and hauling in all that stuff with a car we’d have to get from a garage three blocks away and by the way did I mention my maternity leave ends in two weeks?
After the insanity that was June, I just couldn’t face all the planning a real party would require. I know me. “Let’s have some friends over for Easter brunch” turned into an all-day open house with forty or so people coming through our apartment, with several courses of food I cooked over the previous three days, from stuffed eggs to a breakfast strata to sausage gravy. “Let’s throw a party for my friend’s 40th” turned into ordering decorations, getting the recipe for his favorite childhood birthday food from his mother… you get the idea. If I thought about making even pasta salad, I’d have to make a side of green bean salad, too, and then why not also lemonade for a picnic, and then I’d pretty much have to make and decorate two dozen cupcakes, and at least put something into a little bag for favors. Sealed with labels I’d designed.
Thus I began unplanning. I decided my preparation time should require the amount of time it would take to buy a picnic lunch at our local grocery store. I would email our friends–the ones with kids Eliza knows, plus babysitters–and let them know we’d be at the picnic spot between the hours of 11:30 AM and 2 PM on Sunday. We’ll provide cupcakes, I said, and you bring a picnic (no gifts), and won’t it be a nice day at the park?
Of course, I decided to swing by Walgreens and get some extra sand toys for Eliza, and what’s a party without bubbles, so a little eight-pack of bubbles would serve nicely as party favors. And also a kite because they were on sale. And the grocery store sells balloons, so I’ll get one of those, too, just to mark our spot. And I guess we ought to get some extra fried chicken and mac’n’cheese in case guests don’t bring their own picnics, and probably also an extra bag of chips, and a big jug of water, and an extra bottle of white wine, and also paper plates and cups and flatware in case they forget that, too.
Fortunately, friends were already at the park to help us carry stuff, and the birthday gods were smiling at us, because we scored rockstar parking (like seriously right next to the entrance. Woo!). As we hoped, the spot was ideal for a party, although more shade would’ve been nice. Gillian’s cheeks are a little pink.
I was worried about how tacky it would be to ask our attendees to bring their own lunches, but I think it actually worked out pretty well; my sister-in-law could have a sandwich instead of fried chicken (which we brought), and one of the guests brought her snappy Hello, Kitty lunchbox. The extra food we bought didn’t go to waste, although no one bothered to open the brie and camembert, which was probably a good move; nothing smears like soft cheese on a picnic blanket when there are toddlers about.
The star, of course, was the birthday cake, bought from Cala Foods. I made a joke about how it’s so against Good Mommydom to order a cake from Cala, and when David said, “Right, we should’ve done Whole Foods or something?” I replied, “No, I’m supposed to make it.” It took me saying it three times for him to realize I was being completely serious.
And, of course, I tried lighting the candle, but in San Francisco wind, that’s no dice. But we had no complaints.
The nearby playground also saw a lot of action by all attendees.
And in the end, of all the presents she received, the one she loved the most was the giftbag featuring all of her BFFs.
The best part? We were home by 2:30, with plenty of time for a nap and cleanup. The party was everything I wanted it to be–easy, fun, and sunny, and we only had two meltdowns, which is a pretty good record for six kids. Thanks to Zelda, Molly, Bianca, and Dylan for being such lovely party guests. And all their parents (and some grandparents!) for being so game for a picnic in the park.
So with that out of the way–her first real birthday party–I’m looking forward to next year, when she might actually know it’s her birthday. Same time, same place. Maybe next year I’ll cook something.