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Cora's First Birthday: Cheers and Tears

First birthdays are funny things. In some
cultures, it’s a huge party, a celebration of reaching a
milestone in an uncertain world. Other people throw lavish parties
to show their status; they’re saying, “Sure my
kid’s too young to appreciate that I’ve hired the Three
Tenors to sing at her birthday party. But it’s not really
about her anyway.”

As for me, I figure, the kid’s never going to remember it, so
let’s call a spade a spade and have a nice party to celebrate
with all our friends. Plenty of time for tots and goody bags
on subsequent birthdays, after all, and as long as Cora gets her
gifts and has a nice, relaxed day (with all the requisite photos to
prove it) then we’re all winners.

So for Cora’s birthday we went to the Arboretum for a nice
picnic lunch. Cora adores the arboretum, since it combines two of
her favorite things: nature, and the opportunity to literally
deflower nature. Yes, my kid loves to run up to a lovely bed of
impatiens and begin ripping away. Good times.

Anyway, we packed our sandwiches and drove
off, the birthday girl catching a little snooze in the car on the
way. The day was hot but not horrible, and we had a lovely time
strolling around with our red wagon, stopping periodically to
frolic in the grass or deadhead the azaleas (I try to use her
compulsion for good, and point her towards things that need pulling
up anyway). After a simple lunch we headed back home, Cora once
again napping in the car and foiling any chance I had of snatching
my own nap.

For the evening we had family over to Cora’s favorite meal.
What, you might ask, are some of Cora’s favorite foods? Would
you believe me if I told you it’s Tex-Mex?

Cora is in love with Tex-Mex, and five minutes into her dinner of
enchiladas, black beans, rice, and mango salad, she was shoveling
and humming to her heart’s content. Maddie kept banging on
her tray and demanding when we were going to get to the cake, and I
confess I was a bit excited myself at the thought: here was a cake
I’d toiled over, lovingly peeling and dicing the apples,
whipping up the low(ish) sugar frosting. Maddie and I had spread
the frosting the day before and the cake sat there, glowing, under
the cake cover.

Everyone had finally had their fill, Cora quickly polishing off the
bowl of fruit, and it was time for the cake. The lights were
dimmed, the candle lit, and ten faces turned towards Cora, ten
voices raised in the birthday song, as half a dozen still and video
cameras whirred, intent on capturing this moment for posterity.

Cora looked around, and burst into tears.

I’m telling you, she was clawing at the side of the high
chair, so frantic was she to get into my arms. The candle quickly
blown out, the lights turned back up, the choir shushed, we all
attempted to get her calmed down, and she still wailed on. By this
point Maddie’s patience had run out and she was chanting,
“Cake, please! Cake, please! Cake, please!” over and
over again. Frantically I sawed off a small piece for Cora, a piece
for Maddie (to shut her up), and pulled Cora out of her seat.

As Cora snuffled in my neck, the cake went round and all fell
silent. A few minutes later Cora was able to make eye contact again
without looking at you with that wounded, “Why? What did I
ever do to you to make you SCARE THE CRAP OUT OF ME LIKE
THAT?” So I sat her in my lap and fed her a tiny bit of cake.

Well, as you can imagine, the moment was lost, and my daughter took
precisely one bite of cake before turning disinterestedly away from
it and asking to get down. Talk about a letdown. I make her wait a
year for dessert, and this is how she acts??? At any rate, we all
made yummy noises and finished off the cake quickly so we could get
to the gifts.

The gift opening went better, mostly because Maddie
“helped”. A lot. We had a few of the expected
“No, Mommy, this is my toy, not Cora’s!” moments,
but all in all it went well and our living room is now even more
full of toys we don’t need than it was before the weekend. In
some amnesia-worthy moment of insanity, I agreed to buying a ball
pit for our kid, and we’ve now got two HUNDRED plastic balls
that wander ALL OVER the living room. I predict this will last for
about a week before being packed away for “special
occasions”. On the up side, Cora received a lot of books, and
she’s been happily working her way through them ever since.

So that’s how we spent the big day: flower picking,
celebrating, crying, and playing. Not bad.

And since I know this is the last time I’ll ever wave
good-bye to guests after a party and not hand them a goodie bag, I
enjoyed every second of it.


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