On First Birthday Party Planning and the Notion of Beauty Being in the Details

This past Friday, we celebrated my husband’s birthday. I baked a cake and was so excited that our oldest daughter and I woke him, and subsequently Lola, singing happy birthday. Ever since her birthday, Lola has come to love the birthday song. Her face lights up and she starts clapping, smiling and wiggling around at whatever place she is seated. Something tells me she likes the birthday song for more reasons than the simple fact that it has a catchy tune. I would like to think she remembers a very special day in which she was surrounded by loved ones and presented with a cake in celebration of her presence in our lives.

When I reflect on Lola’s birthday I remember my mother and I struggling to decorate at the park. The wind was blowing the decorations, water in mason jars filled with flowers toppled over and tablecloths were ripped off the table unable to withstand the continuous gusts. I remember standing there feeling so defeated. What had I gotten myself in to? I shouldn’t have done it at the park. How could I possibly think things would go off without a hitch? I mean, I was prepared. I had made all my decorations and placed them in labeled bags so I knew where everything was. In the hours before the party, it seemed as though everything was going wrong and the many of the details I worked so hard to create would have to remain tucked away in a box as opposed to blowing across the playground.


I went home to get myself and Lola ready and headed back to the park while my mom went to pick up the cake. For a few minutes I frantically tried to fix things (often to the tune of my husband’s voice telling me that it was ok) and place them back where they belonged. And then I just stopped. I wanted nothing more than to be present at this party. See, I’m the mom who is usually so busy playing hostess and running around and tweaking that I fail to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I don’t eat, I don’t relax and I don’t take in all that is happening around me. So many special moments somehow flew right by me only to become stories filled with wishes that I took a minute to be still. For the remainder of the party I chatted with friends and while I never took a minute to sit down to eat, I did sit down and play with my baby and watch her eyes grow wide as she played in a sea of bubbles with laughing children.

Weeks later I felt a twinge of disappointment as I looked at pictures from the party. There weren’t very many of the details that where there – the food table filled with treats picked specifically with babies and toddlers in mind, the fruit which included Lola’s favorite – blueberries, the pictures frames for each month Lola’s been living life beyond the belly. As someone who thrives off of the execution of details when it comes to parties again I felt defeated. After all, there is beauty in the details. But as we clicked threw the pictures something happened. I realized that I was focusing on the wrong details.

As I looked more carefully I stopped seeing what was missing and honed in on what was there — the bright eyes of my baby, fingertips covered in icing, scrunched up noses gracing smiling faces, lips softly pressed against baby cheeks and smile lines around our eyes and mouths. Love captured in the form of photographs, and so much of it. The details had been captured, the most important ones anyway.

I was reminded that while creating a beautiful and festive party atmosphere can be a lot of fun (and also a lot of work) even more fun is creating the memories. That’s what all of this is for anyway, the memories and making the most of these moments. Those will last long after your balloons have deflated and the last cake pop has been eaten.

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