A birthday falling on a school day leaves you out of breath and gasping from the onslaught of cake, presents and wishes, even when it’s not your birthday. Youngest was seven the other day. She was a bit fed up that she had to go to school on her birthday. After all, it’s too tantalizing opening up pressies over breakfast and then having to go off and leave them in a pristine, untouched state on the table. The one consolation was that we had promised to pick her up as soon as she finished, instead of her going into aftercare until the older ones came out of class, as she usually does on a Monday.
She was over the moon with all her presents, especially the horse themed ones. Middle Daughter had had the idea of making her a stable out of wood for her toy horses; she designed it herself and enlisted Dad’s co-operation for the woodwork, spending most of Sunday out in the garage supervising and then painting her creation. This stood proudly on the breakfast table enveloped in a sarong to be unveiled the moment the cereal had been dispatched.
And then more presents enticingly swathed in pink crepe paper with ribbon and roses arrived with her aunt, to reveal a riding academy set with horses and jumps, fences and mucking out equipment. How can a girl possibly go to school when all these treasures await investigation. But she did, without too much complaint, clutching a big chocolate cake with Smarties on that she’d decorated the night before.
I’d planned to get some work done and then kick in to party planning mode. One lot of visitors were leaving and two more arriving on the same day, but I thought I could scribble a short recipe article or two before baking the cake… until our domestic help called in sick. I looked around the house, in its usually post-weekend chaos and gave up the idea of work… changed beds, swept floors, baked cake, as my husband washed dishes and put the playroom to rights. It was of course raining. The treasure hunt was still to plan, though I’d got ahead of myself and put the treasure bags together the night before.
By the time Youngest returned from school the treasure hunt clues were distributed and I’d got the story thought up: about a Princess whose job was to take care of the royal unicorns, only to have Bad Baron Bolligrew kidnap one of the foals, when she refused to sell him one. We had to track him down and rescue the baby unicorn, following the magic notes she’d been able to leave for us.
The dogs were fascinated with my putting round of clues, especially Amy the Jack Russell; I’d planned to use the pet carry box to put Youngest’s toy unicorn in with the treasure. Amy still reckons that box is hers. She arrived at our house in it, as her previous owner used it for her to travel in. Now, as soon as I opened the door to put in the treasure, in she shot and lay down next to the stuffed unicorn, refusing to come out. This was obviously some new game just for her, one that she was more than willing to play. Eventually I got her out, replaced her with the treasure and whizzed around the rest of the route tying clues to trees and fences with silver ribbon.
Youngest nibbled a bit of bread for lunch and then disappeared off to play with her horses. I’d naively thought that she’d enjoy helping make cheese biscuits with me for tea. Usually the girls love doing that as part of the party preparations, but time was at a premium; horses were more important that any old cheese biscuits. Plus there were phone calls to receive from overseas aunt and Granny.
I made the cheese biscuit dough myself quickly, whipped cream and sliced strawberries and put the cake together before zooming off to collect the rest of the party invitees from school. She’d spent ages deliberating over who to invite and in the end luckily decided on just a few friends, so the car held them all.
The rest of the afternoon went by in a blur.
Sandwiches made, with starving kids hoovering up the crusts the minute I sliced them off.
A shower of rain descending just as we set off on the treasure hunt, necessitating a return for rain jackets, but damping no-one’s enthusiasm for clue-seeking.
Two more sets of visitors duly arriving.
Sandwiches, cheese biscuits and strawberry cake consumed and Happy Birthday sung.
Beads to be threaded to make necklaces, beads all over floor, visiting toddler retrieved from vicinity of beads.
Youngest torn between playing with her friends and wanting to get out the horses again, in the end being drawn into a game of block block.
The last child guest leaving, signalling time to cook supper for the adult guests.
Youngest happy but tired, wishing there was more time to play with her presents, but bed-time had been reached already.
A chapter of Noel Streatfeild’s A Painted Garden read and then lights out.
School day birthdays really are a rush… maybe it’s time to move the party to the weekend, but it has always been so much part of the birthday itself for our kids, that a birthday without a party just seems rather dull.
The next morning Youngest got out of bed and dressed in record time, before I’d even got out of bed. By the time I came through from my shower she’d got her own breakfast and was playing happily with her horses.