There isn’t any one particular birthday that stands out from childhood – just snapshots from various parties my mom tried to throw together on the lone income of my dad, the public school biology teacher. Parties in the 70s and 80s were a far cry from the elaborate affairs of today. Parties at the Laing residence were a further cry from the parties of the 70s and 80s but boy did Mom try.
She was an artist in her own right – beautiful cakes, handmade decorations. One year, Winnie the Pooh was the theme. Back in those days, 8 or 9 was not too old for Pooh. My mom hand drew all the characters of Pooh and decorated the dining room chairs with them. She came up with Pooh-like games for us to play after cake. She also hand drew Eeyore on a small, old bedsheet that we used to play Pin the Tail. For a shoestring budget, Mom really went all out to make sure birthdays were special for all of us.
My birthday was cursed for gaining a public following! November 11 is Veteran’s Day – schools are closed that day. I never got to have a pizza or other type party at school with my classmates like the other kids did. My mom made cupcakes in ice cream cones when I was in 4th grade to have the day before, but no one understood why we were celebrating on a day when it wasn’t my birthday AT ALL. November in New York is also the first cold month of fall. October still has a warm day here and there, but by November it is definitely chilly all the time – and usually rainy. There was a sleepover birthday party that involved a trip to the SUNY Farmingdale public pool that was fun, but not the same as a summertime pool party or BBQ like it seemed every other child in school had. Poor Dad willingly sat in that steamy public pool watching me and half a dozen other little girls splash around in the water while he sweated it out in the bleachers.
As meager as those parties seemed at the time, I wouldn’t trade a single one of them for a balloon clown, pony ride, moon bounce or DJ that today’s parties have.