A couple of weeks ago, my daughter Jane celebrated her 13th birthday. She is my mini-me in many ways, not the least of which is her penchant for making lists and schedules for every occasion. This birthday in particular had her head spinning with excitement; I even saw a Google search she had done for “how to chill about your birthday.”
For one thing, she was about to become a bona fide teenager (even though she has been acting like one since she was 7 years old; I guess she was excited to make it official). What’s more, her dreaded weekday birthday, previously expected to be super boring, was now a quarantine birthday, with nothing to do but be showered with gifts and attention.
Quarantine birthdays are tricky. I’ve ushered my husband, son and now Jane through quarantine birthdays over the past two months, and I’ve had to be a little creative to make them not completely lame (read: lots of friends driving by with balloons, treats and gifts). Luckily, Jane didn’t make me work too hard to figure out exactly how she wanted everything to go down.
About a week before her birthday, she let me take a peek at the three-ring binder she’d been carrying around for a few days. It was filled with plans – sometimes down to the minute – for the entire day. When she does things like this, it’s always a bit tongue-in-cheek, but always with the understanding that she would really, really prefer that we follow her plans to a T.
From her birthday binder, for example:
8:35-Look at my awesome presents!
8:38-Yum yum breakfast (cinnamon rolls, orange juice, eggs)
… and so on until literally midnight.
One of the main requests for her birthday was that her two cousins come over to eat pizza, hang out and watch “High School Musical.” I felt it was a request I could accommodate. On the big day, before Jane and I left to pick up her cousins and the food, I pulled her siblings into my bedroom for a powwow.
“While we’re gone, I want you all to figure out how to make our house feel like a fine Italian restaurant,” I whispered. “You know Jane’s level of party expectations,” I added, looking at each of them pointedly. “Do not disappoint her.” They nodded their heads solemnly, a glint of fear passing through each of their eyes. Jane is a sibling you do not want to cross.
And then Jane and I were off. We picked up her cousins, Hailey and Claire, and headed to Ferrante’s on the South Hill to grab three personal pizzas along with some gelato because how can you be in the presence of gelato and not get any? Soon we were on our way home.
Now listen: Sometimes my kids can be really awful to each other – just the worst. But other times, they absolutely knock it out of the park in the “awesome siblings” department. And this Italian restaurant experience was one of those times. As soon as the girls walked in the door, big sister Lucy ushered them to a beautifully set table and took their “orders.”
Soon after, the debonair head chef (big brother George sporting a chef’s hat and impressive Italian accent) brought out their food on a platter. Little brothers Henry, Emmett and Hyrum assisted at every turn, with Hyrum even providing mood music at one point with an impressive rendition of the piano masterpiece “C-D-E.”
Jane and her cousins were utterly thrilled with their fancy restaurant experience. The whole birthday was such a success, in fact, that by the end of the day, her little brothers were wishing that the world would still be in quarantine when their birthdays rolled around.
“I want a quarantine birthday!” Henry exclaimed. “Yeah,” added Emmett, “because everyone feels bad for you and you get the best presents ever!”
If we’re back in quarantine by the time their birthdays roll around, their only present will be the ice cream they get on the way home from visiting their mom in the asylum. I’ll ask Jane to add it to the binder.
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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