The Best Birthday Ever

June’s ten now. We are all in the double digits, at least until Beth turns one hundred in November 2066. We’ve been making this joke for a few weeks now and it still amuses us.

Friday: Pre-Party

Friday after school June and I set to work finalizing the schedule of activities for her birthday party the following day and decorating. Mostly this consisted of filling goody bags with noisemakers and sticking foam stickers in the shapes of instruments, microphones, and musical notes to the windows in the living and dining room. She’d already painted the staff with a missing note for the Pin The Note on the Staff Game, and our living room had been festooned since the previous weekend with helium balloons—one that said “Rock Star,” one with a picture of a guitar and one that plays “Good times! These are such good times! Leave your care behind! These are such good times!” when you tap it.  We decided to hold off blowing up the black non-helium balloons with white musical notes until the next day so the cats wouldn’t pop them. (Matthew had already popped the first one she’d blown up when she wanted to see what they looked like.) The theme of the party was, you guessed it, music.

Saturday to Sunday: The Party

It was a slumber party, her third one, and it started late Saturday afternoon. I felt a little more relaxed about it than I did the previous two years, like we’ve got this down now and we know how to do it.  On Saturday morning we gave her some early presents. We have a slumber party tradition that I buy her pajamas related to the party theme. I had the hardest time finding pajamas with either violins or musical notes on them, so I reached out to a few music teachers I know and her orchestra teacher knew of a web site that had just what I wanted. I gave June the pajamas along with a few music-themed shirts (two from us and one from Beth’s mom). She chose the yellow t-shirt with the heart, peace sign, and violin to wear to the party on Saturday and the one with Olivia the pig singing to wear on Sunday.

Megan came over a half hour early because June she needed some one-on-one time with her BFF before the big event. She “never” sees her alone any more, she said, only at basketball and Girl Scouts. I relayed this to Megan’s mom, who says she’s been getting a lot of “never” and “always” from Megan recently. She speculated it was a ten-year-old thing. Megan’s been ten for four months now, so her mom would know.

The rest of the guests arrived between five and five fifteen. They came bearing their band and orchestra instruments because they all play one and the party started with a jam session featuring two violins, a viola, a cello, two clarinets, and a saxophone. Everyone played at least one song alone and then they played some together. Because most kids start instrumental music in the fourth grade, the guests are all relative beginners on their instruments so we heard a lot of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” but Maggie performed “Happy Birthday” for June on the saxophone and Evie played one of their winter concert pieces on her viola.

After each girl played everyone else chanted her name. I was happy to see this brought a little smile to the face of her shyest guest, the one who periodically needed to retreat a little from the crowd before re-joining the fun. Being an introvert myself, I understand how it is in loud, chaotic environments.

And it turns out a music-themed party is loud, or this one was. June had six guests, two more than last year, so that could have been a factor, too, but over the course of the party there was a lot of playing and singing and in between there was non-stop chatter. Before the party June had brought up some instruments from the bin in the basement and throughout the festivities people picked up the guitar, the accordion, the toy piano, and the penny whistle and played them. Maggie kept asking if she could take the accordion home and June kept saying no.

After they’d finished their jam session, we had pizza. (I was impressed that no one had to be told to put her instrument in its case—they all just did it on their own.) Claire’s mom was still with us because she’d gotten a flat tire and was waiting for a tow truck, after trying unsuccessfully to change it herself. The jack wasn’t up to the job. She chatted with the adults and helped serve fruit punch until the truck came and she was able to leave.

Next June opened her presents. She got great gifts—a set of glow-in-the-dark stars, a book of fiddle music, a stuffed cat, an Amazon gift certificate, multiple kits—one for felting, one for making a nightlight out of crystals and one for making wind chimes—and two gift certificates for the local nail salon, which put together were more than enough for a mani-pedi. Zoë and Claire seemed as surprised as June was that they got her the same thing.

After presents we served the cake—shaped like a music note—and ice cream, and the girls changed into their pajamas to watch a movie, The Sound of Music, or part of it—that movie is really long. We projected the movie onto a sheet hung in the living room for a big screen experience. Most of the girls liked it, though it was a bit slow for Megan’s taste. They sang along with the songs they knew and June and Maggie reminisced about being in a summer camp production of songs from the musical when they were five, or mostly Maggie did because June doesn’t really remember it very well. There was a lot of lively commentary during the movie and a general consensus that Maria should not have kissed Captain Von Trapp. Sample feedback: “No, you’re making a terrible mistake. You’re like twenty and he’s like fifty nine.” I kind of agreed with them on that point, truth be told. Maria’s only a few years older than his oldest daughter. And speaking of Liesl, when the girls were all singing, “I am sixteen, going on seventeen,” it suddenly seemed they really would be some day, and not in the distant future either.

When it came to the Intermission, we paused the film for the night, and shortly afterward Norma’s mom came to pick her up since she wasn’t staying the night, and the rest of the guests got settled into their sleeping bags to tell ghost stories. I told them they should stop talking and go to sleep at ten, and I came out once shortly after ten to remind them, but I could hear the quiet murmur of voices for a while after that. Since it wasn’t enough to keep me awake, I decided to let them be. June says she thinks she was up until midnight.

Beth and I rolled out of bed around seven and started toasting bagels and slicing strawberries for breakfast. Everyone was awake, although Megan seemed to be trying to go back to sleep. She got up to eat, though.  Beth and I ate in the living room, listening to the girls’ breakfast conversation, which centered around Donald Trump (they don’t like him because he’s mean) and a girl at Maggie’s school who looks just like a vampire, pale skin, black hair and even long canines. All the boys like her because she cast a spell on them. Her brother looks like a vampire, too, but not their parents, so the kids may be adopted.

We watched the rest of the movie, with me offering running commentary on what was going on politically because there was some confusion about that and then Noah ran a karaoke session for them. They warmed up with “Let it Go,” and then sang a bunch of pop songs I didn’t know until they got to Katy Perry’s “Roar.” You can’t live with June without knowing this song. In fact, she’s got the chorus printed out and taped to the wall of her bedroom.

Next we moved them out to the porch to Pin the Note on the Staff and smash the piñata. These are birthday party games June loves and does every year. The guests asked me to judge who had pinned his or her note most exactly in the blank space intended for it and I pointed to one. “That’s mine!” Claire cried. Claire also knocked the piñata down (she was third in line, so only June, Maggie, and Claire got a turn.) It didn’t break, so I wondered momentarily if we should hang it back up, but the girls and Noah all descended on it and started emptying it through the hole used to fill it. Then Noah grabbed one side of the note and ripped it off and the thing was history.

We finished the last scheduled activity with twenty minutes to spare before parents were expected. It was a cold, gray day despite being the Spring Equinox, but given the choice between more karaoke inside and running around the back yard, they chose the back yard. That seems to be how all birthday parties end, at least in my experience.

Sunday: Post Party

June asked if she could get her mani-pedi that very day and Beth launched into an explanation of how Spring Break would be better because there would be more time and then interrupted herself to say, “But you want your friends to see it, don’t you?” and June said yes, and Beth said maybe and sure enough, that afternoon, Beth took June to get her finger and toenails painted dark purple that afternoon.

June spent a lot of the rest of the afternoon felting. Do you even know what this is? I’d never heard of it, but it involves shaping differently colored balls of wool by poking them with a needle. “It’s like magic,” June said. And it is. Over the course of a couple days, she made a hedgehog, a rabbit, a dog, a bird, a little person and a ball that’s dense enough to bounce.

June’s birthday was still three days off, but at dinner Beth mentioned she was almost into the double digits. “Until you turn one hundred,” June said.

“Will you visit me when I’m one hundred?” Beth asked.

June said she would if her busy schedule as a pop singer allowed. Beth pointed out she’d be sixty then and maybe not touring any more but I said Dolly Parton’s in her seventies and touring and Willie Nelson is in his eighties and touring so you never know. Maybe she should be a country star instead.

Tuesday: Class Party

Monday passed without anything particularly festive happening, though June did wear the last of her early birthday presents—a long-sleeved t-shirt with a violin made of butterflies.

June’s Science/Spanish class was supposed to have a party on Wednesday, the last day before Spring Break, and coincidentally, June’s birthday. The teacher had agreed she could bring some kind of trinkets to the party, since it was her birthday, and she settled on the leftover instrument and musical notes stickers. June was pleased to have hijacked the party into being partly hers because none of her teachers do birthday parties this year. But then Señora Y learned a number of kids would be out on Wednesday and she moved the party to Tuesday, and June ended up having to share it with a boy who had his birthday the previous Saturday and who was also going to bring party favors. She was slightly put out on both counts, but she brought the stickers anyway.

When she got home she reported Señora Y forgot the treats for the party and left her class with another teacher while she went off to get cookies. So the party was short and not only did June not get a chance to distribute her stickers in the confusion, but she also she forgot to go to her violin lesson.

Wednesday: Double Digits At Last

June requested cheese grits for breakfast on the morning of her birthday, because she likes them and I don’t often make them unless I’m also in the mood for them because they tend to get the pot messy. It was good strategic thinking on her part. I made them.

While June was at school I wrapped presents and made strawberry frosting for the cupcakes Beth had made with the leftover birthday cake batter before the party. We’d saved them for her actual birthday.

We planned for June to open presents in the narrow slice of time between dinner and when I needed to leave for book club. But when Beth got home at 6:40, I told her we had a problem. June was fast asleep. I’d found her in bed five minutes earlier when I’d called her for dinner, and I had no idea how long she’d been asleep. Usually when June falls asleep in the late afternoon or early evening it means she’s getting a migraine, so I was reluctant to wake her. It was the wrong weather for a migraine, though. She most often gets them when the temperature is dropping and it was a warm day.

June woke on her own at 6:45 and said she had a headache but not a really bad one yet. She wasn’t hungry for the birthday dinner she’d requested (nachos with pinto beans). I gave her some painkiller and asked if she wanted to try to go back to sleep or open presents. Open presents, she said, but she was pretty unenthusiastic unwrapping clothes I’d thought she would like. She did smile when she opened two books How to Fight A Dragon’s Fury (How to Train Your Dragon #12) and the second book in the Dork Diaries series. She’s been wanting to read both of these for a while and they’re never at the library. She also got some fabric for making doll clothes, an iTunes gift card, a membership at Animal Jam and a gift certificate to get her hair dyed again. This will be the third time since school started and it’s her last big gift-giving occasion until next Christmas so she’s going to save it for a while. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had it done right before sleep-away camp, if she can wait that long.

The big surprise was an aquarium with two new snails. June brought two snails (Moonlight and Sunlight) and a mosquito fish (Peppermint) home from school in a soda-bottle habitat some time last fall, after a science project (and a long successful, campaign to wear down Beth’s and my resistance). Peppermint died in December and Sunlight some time after that, and June was concerned Moonlight was lonely so she lobbied hard for a new snail and bigger digs for the snails. There’s a color-changing light in the aquarium and a sculpture of a turtle they can climb if they get tired of climbing the walls and the plants. She named the new snails Lollipop and Emerald. She’s very happy with them.

June was well enough to take a birthday phone call from my mom right after opening presents and when I got home from book club, she was in bed but still awake. I guessed from that her nap had been pretty long. Beth said she’d perked up after I left and had eaten most of her dinner, though she opted to save the cupcakes for when everyone could eat them together. She also took phone calls from Beth’s mom and Megan. “It was the best birthday ever,” she’d told Beth, headache and all.

I came into her room to say goodnight and she asked me to climb up to the top bunk to lay down with her. She speculated that she was still awake because she didn’t want her birthday to be over. Then she said maybe it would be her birthday until eleven a.m. the next day because that would be ten years and twenty-four hours after she was born and Noah said she’d previously said it would be her birthday starting at midnight on Wednesday so she couldn’t have it both ways. Eventually, she fell asleep.

And tonight we ate the cupcakes.

  • Swistle

    1. What a good idea to ask the music teacher about the music-themed pajamas!

    2. My mom used to get in a LOOP about how Liesl was 16 years old if and only if she (my mom) was the Queen of England. “She’s at LEAST thirty!,” she’d say. (The actress was not 30 ((my mom is prone to passionate exaggeration)), but she WAS in her twenties.)

    3. As a child, I was appalled that Maria would even be INTERESTED in the Captain. How COULD she, when he was OLD and MEAN???

    4. I am filing away the “nail salon gift certificate” idea for the future.

    • Steph

      The funny thing about the gift certificates was that they covered the cost of something on her birthday list and none of the three girls involved seemed to realize that there was any adult intervention behind this happy coincidence.

  • Nicole MacPherson

    Happy birthday June! Sounds like an epic celebration (celebrate good times…come on! is now in my head on repeat). The music themed party sounds really fun – and I love the nail salon idea.

    • Steph

      I got that in your head for nothing! I realized after I posted, it’s actually “Good times! These are such good times!”