Although I love perusing the perfectly air-brushed photos and styled props of kid/baby birthday parties on Pinterest (are you following Disney Baby, by the way?), I’m a bigger fan of low-key, low-maintenance celebrations. So this year, we decided to throw the themes and goodie bags and three-layer cakes out the window and focus, instead, on a simple cookout with the family members that helped us survive this whirlwind-of-a-year:
It was fantastic. There was the typical hustle and bustle and preparations, which of course, is to be expected when opening your home to 20+ family members. But the undertones of perfection were nonexistent. There were no late nights crafting DIY tassel banners or washi taped gifts or a tiny, handmade cake for Bee to smash her fingers into. There were, instead, grilled burgers and kids running through sprinklers and easy Dean Martin tunes in the background (until, of course, Bee’s 3rd-grade cousin surprised us with a flash mob concert rendition of Call Me Maybe on the sunroom sofa).
Drinks chilled in a nearby bin while family gathered to catch up and swap stories of years passed, and the Remember when…’s replaced the What if…’s for one glorious evening. And after dinner was devoured and the confetti of crumbs covered the table, we brought out an ice cream cake with the words “We Survived” spelled out and thanked our family for their support during this year-long transition.
And sure, there won’t be any photos of a messy baby devouring a rainbow cake to marvel at in 20 years. In fact, there aren’t many photos at all (the above is 1 quick snap of 3 that we managed to capture). But the memory of being present in this celebration – of sitting on blankets in the backyard, babies playing happily while listening to shrieks of laughter as the bigger kids soak themselves with the garden hose — will outlast any framed photo.
It was a lesson learned for me. A recipe for the perfect party lies not in the gifts or the streamers or the balloons. It’s in the guest list: the people gathered around your kitchen table to celebrate a year of transition — a year of growth and change and survival. A year of life.