Sunday, October 14, 2007


Another weekend, another first-grader's birthday party.

It's at Little Stacy Park, maybe half a mile from my house; but Anna doesn't want to walk. There's nothing more volatile than a six-year-old's temper in 90-degree heat. So we drive. At least we drive the flowery froggy Flying Spaghetti Monster-mobile, so we can still pass ourselves off as real Travis Heights residents.

The other moms look a lot like me: some older, some younger, but pretty much dressed about the same, only most of them have tattoos. These are the middle class of Travis Heights. Many of them have known each other for years, and most are actively involved with the PTA, which I'm not. They welcome me very politely, but I'm a stranger in their midst. They split up into small conversational groups, none of which I join, and chitchat about their kids, about early childhood learning patterns, about preschools, about waiting lists, about where to get the best coffee (Jo's), about their yoga classes and how to take a holistic approach to mental and physical wellness, and the challenge of finding inner peace when you have a house full of screaming toddlers.

Twenty small children line up to play Pin* the Tail on the Donkey, and all but three or four of them hit exactly the right spot. "I swear I blindfolded them," says the hostess mom, defensively, but I don't believe it. She's very cute. You can tell she's crazy about kids.

The destruction of the pinata was unusually orderly. This is a ritual which almost always involves a few near concussions. But these Travis Heights moms, I tell you what, they're on the ball, monitoring and controlling the line of kids and herding them back when they got too close. Cleverly, the hostess mom had put only a symbolic amount of candy in the actual pinata, and instead passed out pre-filled goody bags once the pinata was broken. These people know what they're doing.

Still, small children are small children, and towards the end of the hour-and-a-half party time, a few of the littler ones were melting down in fairly socially unpleasant ways, seizing toys, hitting each other, and generally behaving like nasty little sniveling brats. Kids do that, which is why most sane people try to avoid having more than two or three, tops. And I'm once again reminded of one of my favorite stories. It was Anna's fifth birthday, and Katie volunteered to fill out the invitations. She's fifteen now, and a born party animal. She filled out five or six invitations with "Time: 2PM 'til ???" before we caught and stopped her.

I got home before 5pm, thank God. I don't do well even with Austin small talk. ("So where do you work?" asked one of the moms at one point. "Oh, I'd really rather not say," I responded. She probably thought I was in marketing.) There are probably another sixteen kids at least in Anna's class. I hope most of them had their birthdays over the summer.


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