I picked up my daughter from a party the other day, and while she was getting her boots on I was handed a beautiful Donna Karan handbag filled with lotions, cosmetics, makeover gift certificates, a new transmission, and several boxes of candy. It was worth nineteen times the value of the toy we had purchased for the birthday kid, and I was hurled into fiery pits of guilt as a result.
Isn’t it the birthday kid who’s supposed to get all the loot? When did the whole birthday party paradigm change shifts anyway?
I hate to sound like a cranky old codger who’s always spouting off about how things were in THEIR day, but in MY day we went to birthday parties just for the sake of going to a party, I spout crankily.
We’d eat hot dogs and cake and Kool-Aid, then we’d revel in the fact that little Billy got a cool set of walkie-talkies that we would destroy in under five seconds, thus freeing us to run around the yard ‘shooting’ each other with sticks.
WE didn’t get anything – it wasn’t OUR birthday. It was just a party!
Actually, kids attending our parties did get something. It was a tradition in our house for Mom to insert nickels into the cake before icing it – each piece of cake containing a little prize for every adorable child.
There were times, however, when kids didn’t listen to the message about the cake currency since they were running around the yard, foaming at the mouth, eyes rolling back into their foreheads, in anticipation of a sugar rush that would last several weeks and help induce a national diabetes epidemic.
Things would go quiet during the cake devourment as one kid or another would turn blue, choking on a nickel that had been inhaled along with their slice of Betty Crocker Double Chocolate Billion-Calorie Nirvana.
Mom, ever the gracious hostess, would rush around the table, initiating loud “KA-HAACK!” sounds as she Heimliched our choking, cyanotic party guests.
Or, some kid would bite down on a coin and lose a tooth or two, deftly assisted by Mom and her favorite pliers.
Parents arriving to pick up little Billy would find him quietly biting down on a piece of gauze to stanch the hemorrhaging in his jaw – an effective way for us to keep the little cuss from opening his big yap about hazardous foreign objects embedded in the cake being served.
Wasn’t it amazing that his baby tooth decided to come out during our party? His and six other kid’s teeth? “See you next year, and remember what we told you about what happens to a rat-fink, now won’t you? Run along now and thanks for coming!”
Despite the bloodshed, flying teeth and occasional tracheotomy, ours was always a popular party house.
Nowadays, parents would be horrified at the prospect of having filthy, germ-encrusted coinage ingested by their hypoallergenic, gluten-free, decaf, non-fat children.
As for goody bags, family attorneys are ready with lawsuits for bruised self-esteem and emotional trauma suffered by their precious snowflake if there isn’t an original Turner painting tucked in with the box of individually wrapped gummy bears and gold Crayola fountain pens in the pure silk Gucci bag we just mortgaged the house for.
Well, let me tell you something. We didn’t have goody bags back in MY day. We had sore throats and bleeding gums and plier marks on our lips and we were happy to have them! If we were to ever get a prize or a piece of candy because we stumbled dizzily into the donkey’s butt with a pin – well that was just the icing on the cake we were about to barf up.
My daughter’s birthday is coming up. Gold embossed invite is in the mail. Cake supplied.
Bring your own pliers.