Have you ever offered to help a friend in need and then been terribly sorry later?
Lacey, one of the mothers in my Parents Anonymous group, announced her son Paul’s birthday party as we were arriving and encouraged everyone to attend. He would be one year old on Saturday and she wanted us and our children to be there to help celebrate. It was the middle of summer and there was to be plenty of food and outdoor activities for everyone no matter the age, it would be fun.
Katie and Chelsey could talk of nothing else on our way home: What gift would we get him? What kind of food would they have? What kind of games would there be? They were so excited about the party, how could I say no?
We showed up half an hour earlier to unwrap foods and pour beverages at Lacey’s request. It was all downhill from there. There was an ice shortage so her husband was out in search of bags of ice. He telephoned to tell Lacey that the hotdogs she expected to be thawed out for ‘pig-in-a-blankets’ were in 20 pound boxes – frozen solid.
Lacey looked at me petrified; she was about to cry. I told her things would work out since there would only be a few guests and everyone could pitch in and help.
You know what they say about famous last words…
The ice cream cake arrived with no place to store it in the summer heat. The tables were there but the paper table covers kept blowing away and spilling drinks all over. Her husband finally returned with the frozen hotdogs and bags of ice and had to go start the grill for burgers. I began trying to thaw the hotdogs and cut them in half and wrap them in half a canned biscuit. Other people poured drink refills and began unwrapping salads. Having the oven on to bake the ‘pig-in-a-blankets’ was turning her tiny kitchen into an oven itself.
Car after car arrived and people piled out; parents carried gifts inside while older children watched the younger kids. People who had drink refills were now milling through the small house in search of the bathroom. There were elderly people asking to see the precious child named Paul.
It was quite a spectacle, as a clown in a much-too-baggy suit with long thin balloons showed up and began making animal shapes. A carnival music recording blasted electronic sounds and people driving by stopped to see what was going on. Food began to get served over an hour late and the clown announced he had to leave because Paul’s parents only paid for 45 minutes.
Several people received undercooked hamburgers and whispers circulated, “Don’t eat the meat!”
The face painter cancelled and since I had experience, I got the job. Kids wanted butterflies, flowers, puppy footprints and red noses or cat-whiskers. Another child wanted diamond shapes on both cheeks, another asked for a pony and yet another asked for a tree, no less.
A mother wandered up and wanted to know, “Will this paint wash off?”
Poor little Paul, there he sat in his highchair rubbing his eyes and crying. Here he is; a one-year-old toddler that doesn’t know most of the people and noise and chaos are all around. Of course he is going to cry!
There are so many presents you cannot imagine how on earth they will fit into their house. There were many little outfits and an avalanche of toys. It was all Lacey and her husband could do in order to open the gifts and keep the paper and ribbons under control. Little Paul was fast asleep.
I excused the girls and myself and climbed in my car. We were hot, sweaty and exhausted and could not wait to get home. I thought as I drove, ‘I bet there will no party next year.’
Live and learn. Somewhere there are a few hundred photographs fade in a shoebox and a young man finishes college and doesn’t remember a thing.
Oh, did I tell you there were over a hundred people at the one-year-old’s birthday party?
Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her at her contact page.