Today, we had a small birthday brunch for the baby, who will be celebrate the first anniversary of his birth on 01.26.2010. I have been looking forward to and dreading the party in equal measure for the past few weeks. Looking forward to: marking the occasion of my favorite short person’s birth, having him spend time with some relatives he doesn’t see often, making a cake from scratch with my new KitchenAid Mixer. Dreading: cleaning up before and cleaning up more after, keeping conversation going between two families that have been randomly thrown together by marriage, dealing with the fallout of an overtired and overstimulated baby, the potential that everyone will hate the cake.
We kept the guest list to grandparents and aunts and uncles, but that still meant 15 adults were invited to our tiny little house. The decorations were low-key, and I took some help from our local small grocer for most of the food. The cake, and the baby’s cupcake, were baked the night before and frosted in the morning. The baby took his morning nap on time and woke up in an adorable mood. People came more or less on time, were more or less nice to each other, and more or less kept out of the kid’s face long enough for him to shove some cake in. Success.
What I did not even think about, and what turned out to be so fabulous about the day, were the presents that people brought for him. We worried about having enough seating, completely overlooking the fact that everyone would want to be down on the floor with the birthday boy. He mostly loved the paper, and his dad and I loved everything that people had chosen for him, from a tiny-sized KISS shirt to a wagon with all sorts of neat things that spin and open and close.
The One Fabulous Thing though, was a present that my parents brought in without any wrapping paper around it. It was a small rocking horse that my great-grandfather had made for me when I was a baby, repaired and repainted by my parents. I had vague memories of it being around through my childhood and that of my younger sisters, but I certainly was not expecting it to show up in my living room. I also remembered it being a lot larger, probably a function of me being a lot smaller. It is the perfect size for the baby right now, and it was so neat to see him sit on it and instinctively grab the handles and start to rock it back and forth, a huge smile on his face at his accomplishment.
The gift, and the moment, encapsulated things that I am trying really hard to prioritize as a parent: family, traditions, creativity, and whatever the opposite of consumerism is. I love that my late great-grandfather designed and made something that his great-great grandson will enjoy. I love that my parents cared enough to keep it and refinish it, and I love that it made my son so happy. It’s a simple toy, no batteries needed, no specific educational claims made. But if my son is anything like me or his dad, it will make him a cowboy, a policeman, and a jockey. He might name it, he might pet it, he might pretend to feed it, or he might rock crazily enough on it that it scootches across the floor (which is protected from overenthusiastic equestrians by the soft strips that my parents thoughtfully attached to the rockers) until his mama tells him to take it easy.
He might even hand it down to his own kid someday, which is the thought that sort of brings it all together for me, and makes me feel silly for dreading the cleaning up and the potentially awkward conversation.
So, Fabulous Thing #24: Something old, made new again.