It took some thinking to come up with a good idea for Matthew's birthday. I felt stumped about how to host a party in our tiny apartment. Joe's birthday is at the height of summer so we can just have the party outside. But what to do with a birthday in the middle of fall? Well, up until now, he was young enough not to care about his birthday so we got away with having mac and cheese and the grandparents over for his 1st birthday (I was sick with morning sickness at that time so I don't feel too guilty) and when he turned two, we all flew to NY to celebrate with uncle Matthew (DOB 10/03).
But this year, Joseph's birthday party made such a big impression that we knew we had to do something that made Matthew feel honored. I started wishing he had been born in the summer instead of the fall. Stupid fall. Impossible to hold a birthday party at home in the fall. Stupid miniature apartment. No space. Humph.
Then this thought happened: If Joe's birthday is all about summer, lemonade, hotdogs, corn on the cob, balloons, bubbles, baseball, jumpropes, etc. then Matthew's should embrace autumn. Apples! Pumpkins! Lanterns! Fire! FIRE! (I was heavily criticized for the amount of fire hazards at the party by an unnamed husband. No one was injured, and children were awed, so there.)
Dear Matthew, the most magical two-about-to-be-three-year-old anyone has ever met. The party needed to be at home. It wouldn't be as special if it wasn't. So we put the couch in the hall and told people, "if you need to use the bathroom, just walk over the couch," and tried to create a forest inside the apartment. I covered the windows with leaves that Matthew and Danny and I collected and we borrowed branches from our neighbors yard. The pictures don't fully capture how magical the apartment looked. You had to stoop down to walk through the doorway, otherwise you'd get a branch in the eye. We covered the bookshelf and the toy shelf with fabric and brought in the kids table for making carameled apples. I made each kid a lantern out of watercolor paper and sewed a little gnome or fairy to hide inside. Then, after we served dinner and ate pumpkin cupcakes I did a puppet play that went like this (from The Birthday Book):
Once upon a time there were two angels who lived up in heaven. They were best friends and spent all their time together and told each other all their secrets. One day, the first angel had exciting news to tell: "Today is the day that I must go over the rainbow bridge to make my way in the world. Will you walk a little way with me to keep me company and will you watch over me while I am on earth?" The second angel said, "Yes, I will." So the two walked together. When they got half way over the bridge, the first angel gave his wings to the second angel, and when that happened, he was no longer an angel, he was a boy. The second angel said "You will be gone for a long time but I will watch over you. Take this gift, it will help you to remember the happy times we have had together." The boy looked in the bag that the angel had given him and inside were many treasures from heaven. "Thank you, these are beautiful treasures." Said the boy.
So the boy crossed over the rainbow bridge and came down to a beautiful valley with a glittering stream. Just then a gnome appeared. "Hello," he said. "What a beautiful place this is!" Said the boy, "may I paddle in this stream?" "That's what it's there for!" said the gnome. So the boy put down his bag of treasures and jumped into the sparkling water. As he was splashing he noticed a path on the other side of the stream, so he crawled out on the bank and followed the path, forgetting all about his bag of treasures. The gnome picked up the bag and put it deep inside his cave to keep it safe.
The little boy followed the path for a long time until he came to a house. Outside the house were a kind man and woman who said, "Welcome! We have been waiting for you and have everything prepared for you!" and they named the boy Matthew (at this point, the storyteller unexpectedly becomes verklempt.) So Matthew lived with his mother and father and his two brothers Joseph and Daniel and their dog Moe.
One morning Matthew woke up and his mother said, "Today is a special day. Today you are three years old. You may have a party and invite your friends." So they got ready for a party and at 5:30, there was a knock on the door and in walked Sawyer and Keaton, then there was another knock and in walked Rosie and Johnny and Jo-Jo, then there was another knock at the door and in walked Max. Then the party began and the children made carameled apples and ate dinner and Matthew opened his presents. Then the party was over but Matthew was perplexed, "All my friends have brought me gifts but I have nothing to give them." The birthday fairy overheard Matthew and flew to his ear and said, "What about the bag of treasures? Shall I go to the gnome and retrieve them?" And Matthew said, "Yes please!" So the fairy brought the bag of treasures and Matthew looked inside. He reached in and pulled out a piece of a rainbow (a mother-of-pearl bead) and called to his friend Sawyer and gave it to her. He reached in and pulled out a sunbeam and gave it to Keaton etc. etc. etc. (the other gifts were a moonbeam, the tail of a shooting star, a feather from an angel's wing, a raindrop, and an angel's bell, all of the gifts were from the bead store.) Then after he had given each of his friends a gift he looked in the bag and saw one more thing. He took it out and the birthday fairy said, "That is a star to shine over you as you make your way in the world. Matthew put the star around his neck. (The star was a beautiful venetian glass gold star bead.) FIN.
I suspected that the kids would like the puppet play, but I didn't expect that they would be so charmed and delighted with their "heavenly gifts." It was very sweet. Then we put on some warm duds and went out to light the sky lanterns, and do some jump-roping until it was dusk, then we walked down to the river with the lanterns. Chris and I had made some paper boats with beeswax candles in the center (also from The Birthday Book, although the directions were in the true, totally unclear, Waldorf style, we eventually figured them out, ) and I brought those down in a basket, covered so the kids wouldn't see them. When we got down to the river I uncovered them and the kids carefully picked the one they wanted and we lit them and sent them slowly down the river (Chris waited for them round the bend so they could be returned to the kids and we wouldn't be littering.) Only one boat didn't survive, the rest came out pretty well.
Then we all headed back and the party was over. I knew we had done well when my Mom told me that on the way back home she overheard Matthew say to himself, "I LOVE this."
Happy Birthday Matthew. We love YOU.