Monday, August 2, 2010

A Pirate's Mother

When we turned the corner and walked through the gate,into the back yard, we were greeted by a large ship. Made of cardboard and scrap wood and anchored by two clothesline poles, the theme of the party was suddenly obvious. Ahoy Maties! It’s time to play Pirate!

It was amazing but not surprising. My husband’s brother married one heck of a party planner. She’s a great mom on many levels, and her kids will never be able to complain that they didn’t feel special on their birthdays. They were all born in the summer and every year they throw one big family party to celebrate. Each year it’s a different idea and she pulls it off perfectly time after time. Rain or shine, it’s always a day to remember. From the original cakes to the wiffle ball games that include the oldest to the youngest, this is the party we look forward to every summer.

It’s especially fun for me since all of my kids are old now. Teen parties don’t hold the promise of fun mom interactions the way little kid parties do. It’s more likely that the only role I play in their celebrations is the assignment of food-retriever and brother trapper. Keep the food coming and the brothers out of the way.

Sam is turning ten this year. It might be my last chance to hold a genuine birthday party, with balloons and friends and games played around the kitchen table. Because he was born at the end of October, right when I’m starting to panic about Thanksgiving plans and (oh dear!) Christmas lists, his party is sometimes more of an afterthought. Let’s hurry up and get it done so we can pull of Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then head into Christmas! I’m afraid I’ve squandered some of my last chances at throwing ‘the big one’ for my boy.

So it was fun to watch him in his glory, running around the yard with New Hampshire cousins this weekend, all of them jazzed up on piƱata candy and birthday buzz. In the minutes before we walked through the backyard gate, his priority had been to impress older sister’s boyfriend, who had bravely come along with us. But hanging with the older kids lost its draw the second he laid eyes on the almost life size pirate ship and saw there was an eye patch with his name on it. His constant goal to fit in with teen siblings and their friends fell aside and suddenly my boy was just nine again. A little kid, thrilled to play little kid games.

They had sword fights on and off all afternoon. Jacob, who turned ten, and Luke, who turned eight, mixed easily with Sam, like long lost brothers, not ‘just’ cousins. Their little sister, Emma, who just turned five, pranced around in her Tinkerbelle dress and posed for picture after picture in front of adoring aunts. The bouncy house provided a nice release of sugared up energy. Splashing in the wading pool smeared their great pirate make up (beards! Scars!) and they came to the moms, begging for touch ups, adding some fierce tattoos along the way. Cake was inhaled, presents opened, and soon it was time to head back to Grammy’s house for the night. Even magical pirate days must eventually come to an end. My still- little guy’s head was heavy with sleepiness as soon as he clicked into his seat belt.

But the party was not over. Knowing we’d be in New Hampshire for the ultimate summer party anyway, we strategically planned to celebrate our daughter’s recent high school graduation on the same weekend. All of the out of town family who could not come to New York in June, could celebrate with her in July. After a good, long nights sleep, it was time for party number two.

This one was for my child. My oldest child. The one who was the five year old in the Tinkerbelle outfit not that many years ago. The one who brought along her boyfriend on this trip and spent last week signing up for college classes. Just as I got comfortable, watching my youngest melt back into little kid ways, I was forced back to reality, going through the motions of celebrating the end of a childhood. The end of the era of baby dolls wrapped in shiny paper for birthday presents. The end of fairy princess day dreams and stuffed bunnies who are treated like family.

Her grandmother did it up right. The decorations were amazing. The cake was as tasty as it was beautiful. My girl was showered with presents from aunts and uncles that truly love her and want the best for her. It was only her mom who couldn’t seem to understand what was actually happening.

Two of my sisters in law sat in that lawn chair circle and understood. They’ve seen their children grow up and out of their nests. It’s not always easy, on any level, but they’ve braved the storms, better than any pirate in a plastic eye patch ever could. I’m about to join their club and I’m not sure I want to get my membership card yet. I spent most of the afternoon feeling shell shocked. This can’t be my little girl, all grown up. Mine’s the one in the pigtails, prancing around with her magic wand. Not the one opening gifts that will assist her in her journey to leave me.

I watched my tiny niece dance around the yard and thought of her mother - my sister-in-law, and friend. It must seem like she’s got all the time in the world left, to throw wonderful parties. But so quickly it will be over. The pirate ships will sail away and Tinkerbelle will follow. Soon this party will be her daughter’s graduation. And I’ll be the one comforting the graduates mother.

Maybe by then I’ll be an expert.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

My oldest has always been significantly older than his cousins and siblings - in age and spirit. And, I too love it when he's willing to set the "cool" aside and go back to being a kid.

Congrats on the graduate. I have three years to go. I still am unsure if I'm going to be sad or not. I will, however, be a total mess when the youngest makes that leap.