Turns out that planning a birthday party for an enthusiastic almost three-year-old is a pretty rewarding endeavour.
Initially I had limited enthusiasm and motivation for Hudson’s party, given the proximity of the event to Christmas, the relentless heat, and the lack of fixed inspiration for a theme of any sort from the birthday boy himself. The only ‘theme’ Hudson appears to be attached to in the everyday is as follows: (1) Anything that is in Dave’s hands and (2) Technology of any kind. When I repeatedly tried to nail down an idea to center the party around, Hudson told me serenely that he just wanted ‘sandwiches’. In the end I ‘led the witness’ into a fire engine motif, admittedly more for my passion and focus more than anything!
As the big day drew closer Hudson displayed an enormous amount of gratitude and appreciation anytime he spied me doing anything party-related. “Thank you for making the jelly for my party, Mum!” “I love you, Mum!” “Woo hoo” (with both small fists raised enthusiastically in the air).
When I plan a party, my mind goes into hyper mode for the entire preceding week. Every day I add to my list tasks that build towards the event, even planning dinners so that I can make double for the occasion. Dave, on the other hand, seems blissfully unaware that there is any impending event until approximately 24 hours prior, when he predictably does an emergency shopping run, suddenly convinced that I have underestimated the quantities of food required to feed the anticipated number and comes home with armfuls of chips, snacks, soft drink and chocolate ‘just in case’. I secretly love this turning point (even though we always end up with oodles of leftovers) because it means the party has turned from ‘mine’ to ‘ours’. Dave then motors around the house, moving furniture, blowing up balloons, planning party games and keeping the kids entertained so I can cater in peace. It’s a rhythm that plays without us even having to discuss it, given the sheer number of events we have hosted in our home now.
I’ve never been brave enough to try using fondant before, and let’s just say it isn’t my spiritual gifting. Pretty much anything that requires precision, patience and mathematical estimations of any kind is not even close to my ball park. Thank goodness for licorice and buttercream icing to mask the construction failures and for little boy’s eyes that light up at the reality of a fire engine cake, no matter how shoddy the design! As I was piecing the vehicle together I asked Dave for feedback… “Hmmm,…. It’s not really straight, is it?…. but I guess that’s what you are going for.” Thanks Dave.
The morning of, Hudson came bursting into our room exclaiming, “It’s my BIRTHDAY, everyone! I’m ‘hweee’!!!” Eli was a little dubious in light of the fact that this event was unlikely to produce any gifts for him, though he did get more than his fair share of playing with the newly acquired loot due to Hudson’s limited interest in toys of any kind. Dave and I took a gamble and gifted Hudson a real ‘kid-sized’ guitar, assuming that ‘if Daddy has one’ it might take. So far, so good.
I tried to keep the food simple this time, unsure of how the weather would play into the event, and wanting to be able to avoid oven usage if the day was sweltering. To cater to Hudson’s emphatic request for sandwiches, I made Tuna & Pickle, and Chicken & Cucumber. For the main meal I went with barbecued meats (sausages, honey soy chicken legs, Moroccan marinated prawn skewers) and salads (a pear & walnut salad, a chicken & sweet potato creation of Mum’s, and a tasty Mediterranean couscous offering from Monica). That morning I discovered our ears of corn were more than ready to be harvested, so I added to the menu oven roasted husks along with baked sweet potato. Dessert was a Raspberry Trifle with brandy soaked Madeira cake and home-grown strawberries, along with red jelly shots and loads of fresh fruit. There was also some Pine Lime Rum Punch which my Dad ended up sampling liberally, unaware it was alcoholic! My bad. Mum had to drive home that night.
Hudson’s impassioned request for his party was that he would be able to use a real microphone and be the ’emcee’ of the event. The excitement in his eyes was palpable as he swayed from side to side, burying the instrument in his lips, looking from face to face of his captive audience as he sung songs and singled out people to sit down and listen to him: “We’re starting, everybody! Welcome to my party!”
There is always a moment, mid-party, where I look up, face flushed from the oven or from hauling platters out of the refrigerator, and I ‘see’ it. People in animated conversation, groups clustered around the bench sampling antipasto and drinking wine, kids shrieking with delight and running half-naked on the deck, laughter, excitement, fun, family and dear friends all connected together and forming memories for years to come. Yes, putting on a party for every birthday is a significant effort and Dave and I inevitably collapse into bed after the last crumb is vaccuumed up and the furniture returned to our usual living arrangements. But the privilege of creating that moment and seeing the unrestrained joy in Hudson’s eyes as the anticipation grew, that is so unbelievably worth it!
Tonight as I was tucking him into bed, Hudson looked up at me with a serious expression.
“Mum,… it’s not my birthday today.”
“Yes, that’s true, it was your birthday yesterday, wasn’t it?”
“Mum… I want to have a birthday again!”
I know what you mean, buddy.
You are a whirlwind, vivid and fast, passionate and emotional.
You know what you want and you aren’t afraid to go for it.
I love just watching you. When you stand close to your Daddy, by his side, always asking to be his helper, wanting to be a part of our ‘grown up’ lives already.
You gravitate towards people, exuding life, light and joy.
My heart melts when I see you ask your brother if he is okay in your sweet voice, tilting your head down and to the side as you gaze in deep concern at him.
I love it when you get excited about something, your whole body can’t even contain the energy and you do a little leap into the air with both fists above your head.
You are hilarious in your attachment to technology, successfully pick-pocketing many a hapless victim as you turn on the charm while patting them down to find out where their phone is secreted. “Where’s your phone, Mummy?” is probably one of the most common questions I field from you! And “I’m just, just… working!” is your inevitable frustrated response when I find you quietly hidden in a corner, having located Daddy’s computer, usually by climbing precariously to get it.
Your passion for ‘Open House Kids’ is endearing. It is one of your main topics of conversation, even to people who have no idea what it is. You speak about helping to set up for the gathering almost daily, and are devastated when it isn’t your turn to go with Daddy.
Words can’t even come close to describing my love for you, my son. You have changed our lives in your three short years and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so excited to see how your strengths and passions develop as you journey through this life. Thank you for being Hudson. There truly is no one like you.