All we wanted was for my son to have a ninth birthday party to remember. That should be simple enough, right? As the mother of two, I’m an experienced birthday party planner and I have a reputation for over-the-top birthday parties. But, this one “takes the cake.”
We debated what kind of party to have. He is too young for the zip-line challenge course. He wasn’t interested in the interactive magic party I suggested. His guests were too young for the kayaking party we leaned toward. Ice skating, bowling, theatre party, carnival in the back yard- everything fell flat. So, we hired a mobile video gaming van with large-scale outdoor laser tag, and a human hamster ball. All for the same cost as a bowling party. “But, October weather is unpredictable in Texas,” I fretted. My husband reminded me of the past eight October birthday parties held indoors on gloriously sunny days. I gave in. Done! Grandma’s ranch was lined up and invitations sent. That’s about the time our local drought ended with days of rain.
The weather forecasters promised a dry Sunday for our party, so we continued with our plans by primping, pruning, and mowing in preparation. I could imagine the glorious smile on my son’s face as he and his friends romped through my old stomping grounds, making memories to last a lifetime. The birthday boy placed his annual request for a giant cookie cake (store bought, of course) to complete the details.
Then, Lo and behold, we awoke Sunday (party day) to rain. Lots of it. The record heat and drought ended on our big day.
My heart raced. A sense of dread fell over me. My previous visions of carefree joy turned to a nightmarish vision of bored kids being swallowed by mud.
I trudged to Walmart to buy a portable canopy, as if a 10×10 cover would somehow provide shelter for our outdoor plans and 18 kids. While dragging the behemoth container to the checkout counter, I pulled a muscle in my back that made it painful to breathe. Great! The sense of foreboding heightened.
Every swipe of the windshield wipers reminded me of the new problems the rain had created as I drove to the local mall where our special cookie cake waited. Cake in hand(s), I stepped out of the store and into the perfect storm. Wind driven rain fell in blinding sheets.
I was trapped, wet hair plastered against my face while tears bubbled up. How would I protect the birthday cake when I couldn’t get to my car? Plastic bags are no match for a Texas flash flood. I stood there pathetically for fifteen minutes. My back hurt. Breathing hurt. My pride hurt. Kiddo’s big day was falling apart with every wet drop.
I finally arrived home breathless and soaked through. My husband pried my hands off the cake bag, sending puddles of water splashing to the floor. Then we debated. “Do we cancel the party? Do we change locations? What about the new mud? What about the cars? What about the games?” Ultimately, we charged on. I put last minute indoor games together. The rain slowed to a solid drizzle. As hubby devised a parking plan to minimize damage to the yard, I decorated and my spirits rose. By the time my older son arrived with his girlfriend, I was feeling better. The gaming van arrived which cranked up the excitement for the birthday boy. I knew then that we would make it all work. Somehow. I finally took a deep breath – a little too soon.
The patio table was adorned with decorations surrounding the cookie cake that had survived the morning intact. The moisture wilted the crepe paper and curled the birthday banners. Still, party hats, balloons, and snacks offered as festive a setting as we could hope for. Then, moments before guests were to arrive, and during the few minutes that nobody was monitoring the food, my mother’s enormous Doberman slyly reached over the table, pulled the cake to the ground and ate it. Seriously! I was still recovering from the tears and panic of our new water and mud conditions. Now, the cake? I was stunned. I wanted to cry all over again. Then, unexpectedly, my mother started laughing hysterically. One look at her and I knew exactly what she was thinking.
Simultaneously, we shared a flashback to my own ninth birthday party; We had the perfect guest list, the perfect decorations, the perfect store-bought cake meticulously decorated with candy flowers and ribbons, and lovely porcelain figurines in the center. And the imperfect moment when my cat jumped onto the table and pranced right smack-dab through that centerpiece cake, leaving cat paw craters, and knocking the porcelain princess face first into the icing. I don’t remember anything else about that birthday party. Just the now-funny story about the cat who raced right through my cake.
All these years later, I looked at my son’s half dog-eaten cookie cake lying on the ground. Why cry, I realized. College son rushed to the local grocery store for a quick replacement. All was well.
The rain let up enough for the kids to play laser tag in a light drizzle. Fifteen kids sloshing through puddles. What could be better? So, long story short – it was a cold, wet, almost disastrous, heck of a good time. Despite it all.
Years from now, my son likely won’t remember a single gift he opened on his ninth birthday. He probably won’t remember the video game van that provided shelter from Mother Nature’s downpour. He’ll probably even forget how much fun he had playing in the rain and the mud. But, I’m betting he’ll never forget that imperfect moment when the dog ate his perfect birthday cookie cake.
Kiddo had a birthday party to remember, all right. So, in the end, we got exactly what we wanted.