I created a monster. I can't really complain because I am entirely to blame, but of course that won't stop me from doing it anyway.
From her first birthday, I taught Emily how to put together (painstaking attention to minute details and all) an age/venue themed birthday party. All she has known so far -- from the Sesame Street
1st birthday party theme, complete with jello, cookies, cake, and assorted foods, all
made in the shape of the TV characters, letters or numbers; to Under the Sea
with a replica of a chocolate island replete with handpainted chocolate shells, trees, and sea creatures; to Glow in the Dark Miniature Golf
, yes you read it right, I said glow in the dark; to last year's Bora Bora Swimming party
, where the invitation was an actual message in a bottle full of actual seashells collected in Bora Bora --, is that mommy works tirelessly for weeks (even months) to put together the most complete party this side of a monstrous budget (and that, oddly, she has not yet been clinically diagnosed as a full-blown maniac). (And that nobody at the Tahitian airport customs thought it odd that she was travelling back to the States with an unusually large quantity of beach-gathered shells).
So I shouldn't have been really surprised this year, when I wanted to dismiss the hoopla and take the simple route for a change, that she gave me the indignant look and body language (complete with the eye roll and audible huff) signifying that 1. I was completely delusional and that 2. it would simply not do. I guess I should consider myself lucky that she picked "sunflower" as her theme. No problem, right? Wrong: if it's not the superhero-du-jour, Party City will not have it, thankyouverymuch marketing department at Disney. Even with the Tahitian getaway makeover of my backyard, I was able to use some items from the regular summer fare of bamboo serving pieces and straw umbrellas (finding banana-leaf serving platters, now that
was pure detective work). There is only so much creative streching one can do with the color yellow!
Luckily, actual sunflowers were/are in season, making them definitely much easier to track than frangipaniers (also known as frangipani, or plumeria) which apparently
are not found anywhere
in southern California because they don't grow in my agricultural neck of the woods, don't travel well at all (specially the extremely fragile white ones indigenous to Bora Bora), and will not be flown in on special order (yes, I did
ask, in a moment of pure desperation, then quickly came to my senses... mostly after all the florists I contacted said that it couldn't be done... don't they know that the smell of these fragrant, aromatherapeutic flowers is
one of the integral parts of the Polynesian experience? and they call themselves florists, ha!).
They say the child will have more fun, and will often opt to play with the box instead of its contents, after you've agonized for hours over the perfect (and expensive) gift. Massive quantities of gifts were bestowed upon Emily this year, from art supplies to swimsuits to flip flops to shoes to books to games to a grownup haircut at mommy's fancy salon. But when asked about her favorite part of the day, she chose being the bartender-for-the-day and being in charge of serving ice cream (scooping ice cream in the cones which sat in a funky gadget with colorful spiral slots made specifically for that purpose) as the highlights of her special day. Not a peep about my beautiful vases artfully brimming with sunflowers.
Maybe that's the way things are meant to be, to preserve the sanity of mankind. Despite our best parental attempts to (wittingly or not) ruin our kids, their innocent but accurate instinct will lead them naturally towards the important things in life... like autonomy, sense of accomplishment, Emily spending the day surrounded with friends and family, and love, love everywhere she looked.
There were many lessons I learned from Emily in the eight years I have had the privilege of being her mother, starting from the moment I felt her in my tummy, restlessly shifting in her little liquid cocoon.
This was definitely a poignant one.