I used to always end Tim’s birthday parties with a sense of triumph. I survived, the house survived, and the kids had fun, I would tell myself with a rush of relief as each one ended. The farm party; the cupcake-decorating party; the outing to the minor league baseball park; the sleepover party; the miniature golf excursion; the day at the theme park. All were great birthday celebrations as far as Tim was concerned because he had so much fun; all were great from my perspective because, well, they ended with no one getting hurt. And sometimes they were kind of fun for me too. But more often than not, it was just a relief to know I’d pulled it off.
This year I ended Tim’s birthday party not with a sense of triumph but with a minor sense of sadness. It wasn’t that the gathering hadn’t been successful. It was just that for the first time in 12 years of hosting birthday parties for Tim and his peers, I didn’t want to see this one end.
I suspected that taking three 12-year-old boys up to Maine for the weekend just days before Tim turned 13 would work out pretty well, but I didn’t anticipate what a good time I would have. Partly it was great because the mom of one of the other guests came along too, and she and I had lots of time to talk and visit throughout the weekend, but it was also just that the boys were really fun to be with. Peculiar and hilarious at times, but fun.
Peculiar and hilarious in that any mildly interesting thing any of them managed to do – such as climbing a medium-sized tree, eating an order of fried clams or crossing a street backwards – involved not only the activity itself but the necessity of one of the other boys whipping out a cell phone, taking a picture of the endeavor, and then emailing it to ten or fifteen friends. Peculiar and hilarious in that much of the weekend unfolded in tandem with a continuous text-message conversation going back and forth with a group of girls from their class at school who were having a get-together of their own at the same time. Peculiar and hilarious in that when walking down a somewhat busy city street, 12-year-old boys tend to draw upon the rules of bumper cars more than of pedestrians – caroming off of other people as you tear along is fine as long as you don’t actually initiate any head-on crashes.
But really, what will stay in my mind about the weekend isn’t so much the many ways that 12-year-old boys are different from 44-year-old moms – such as when a formal wedding party arrived by boat at the dock adjacent to our balcony and while my friend and I, along with several neighbors who were watching from their own balconies, oohed and aahed over the pretty bride and her elegant dress, the boys expressed disappointment at what a smooth landing the captain of the boat made, even with a photographer standing right in his line of sight, because, of course, it would have been so much cooler if the wedding party had crash-landed at the dock – not any of that is what will stay in my mind as much as how much fun we all had. We took a long walk along the bike path to the beach. We ate mussels and calamari. We visited the ice cream parlor. We went on a 90-minute kayaking excursion on the Harraseeket River. We played badminton.
I wish I could say this birthday must be the beginning of a long string of parties at which I’ll have just as good a time as the kids, but this may have been a one-off. If I could turn back the clock to Friday, I’d do it all again, just because it was so much fun. But of course, I have to move past the weekend and into a new work week, just as the kids do back at school. Thanks to them, though, there are two or three hundred cell-phone photos of our fun now floating through cyber-space, so I can revisit the experience as often as I want.