By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
For a geezer like me, it’s nice to go to a birthday party that isn’t your own because you don’t have to put up with wisecracks about needing a fire extinguisher to blow out the candles.
Then again, when there are only four candles, you can blow them out yourself without going into cardiac arrest.
That’s the lesson I learned 59 years ago but forgot until recently, when I accompanied my granddaughter Chloe, who will soon be 4 herself, to a birthday party for her preschool classmate Mason, whose celebration was at a children’s activity center where I climbed, slid, bounced, crawled, ran around and otherwise worked up such a sweat that I almost went into cardiac arrest anyway.
I knew I was in for an intense experience that might end in an ambulance ride when I walked in with Chloe and was told by the nice young woman at the desk that Mason’s party wouldn’t start for an hour. She gave me a day pass, asked that Chloe and I take off our shoes, and said we and the 15 other kids and their parents (I was the only grandparent) could have the run of the place until the festivities officially began.
And run we did. First, Chloe took me to a giant rubber slide that was so high it would have made a mountain goat dizzy. I am not a mountain goat (my ears are too short), but I am naturally dizzy, so I was in my element. Upon reaching the top, I held Chloe’s hand and we whooshed down at such an alarming speed that my stomach was temporarily lodged in my sinuses.
It was fun the first time we went. It was fun the second time. By approximately the dozenth time, my knees were as gelatinous as my brain.
But this was only a prelude to a maze called Kilimanjaro. I’m not sure how many preschoolers have read Hemingway, but by the time I found my way out, long after Chloe had completed the course, my limbs were so sore it was almost a farewell to arms.
My legs didn’t fare much better in the inflatable castle, where I bounced with Chloe until my lungs were about to explode like the Hindenburg. (“Oh, the stupidity!”) The structure flashed with multicolored lights and pulsated with tunes such as the 1965 Lesley Gore hit “It’s My Party (and I’ll Cry If I Want To).” It wasn’t my party, but I wanted to cry when I fell out and was helped up by a sympathetic mom who asked if I was hurt.
“No,” I replied. “I landed on my head.”
“You’re a good egg,” she said.
“At this point,” I noted, “I’m a scrambled egg.”
Finally, mercifully, mere moments before paramedics had to be called, it was time for Mason’s party, which was in a back room where the kids could giggle, the parents could converse and I, thank God, could catch my breath.
“You’re not serving beer, are you?” I asked Mason’s mother, Danielle, who smiled and said, “No, but you look like you need one.”
Mason’s father, Gavin, added, “We have lemonade.”
I had a cup. It hit the spot. And the party was fantastic. Chloe saw her friends, including Olivia and Ryan, as well as Mason, of course. We all had pizza, after which there were cupcakes. When it came time to sing happy birthday to Mason, the kids gathered around and helped him blow out the candle on his cupcake. The candle was lit again so he could blow it out himself.
“Make a wish,” Danielle told him.
Without missing a beat, Mason said, “I wish for money!”
He got toys instead, but the day was priceless. Everyone had a great time, including me, not just because I accompanied Chloe, but because it looks like I will live to celebrate my next birthday.
The party won’t be at a children’s activity center, but there will be beer. And if Chloe learns how to handle a fire extinguisher, she can help me blow out the candles.
Copyright 2017 by Jerry Zezima