Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ezra's First Birthday Party: The Party

Ezra’s birthday party took weeks of preparation.  I am bringing up this point, not as a complaint or as an act of self-congratulations, but to acknowledge the fact that Amanda and I are crazy – like Martha Stewart crazy.  This is how our conversations sounded the entire month leading up to Ezra’s birthday: “Sorry, I don’t have time to meet you for coffee.  I need to rush home and decoupage the paper mache birds I constructed last night as party decorations so that I can start the quilt I’m sewing as a birthday gift.  Did you know how easy it is to make your own vanilla extract?  I hope it is ready in time to use in the cinnamon ice cream I’m planning to serve with the birthday cake.”

Ezra helping to shred paper for the paper mache birds (I wasn't exaggerating, and Ezra is not immune to our craziness).

The reason I describe our mania as crazy rather than ambitious, extravagant, or even eccentric is that the entire time we were debating the party’s color scheme we were also fully acknowledging that Ezra would not remember anything about his first birthday.   So, why did it matter?  Our motive for all the work was never to give Ezra magazine quality perfection.  The party was an excuse to cook, create fun crafts, and entertain - all activities we have had less time to do as new parents.

And, who knows maybe Ezra will remember his first birthday party.  Thinking about my own first memories has made me realize this is probably not likely.  In fact, he will most likely not remember anything from his first year, second year, and little if anything from his third year of life.  Yet, I also realize that because of technology, Ezra’s relationship with his own history will be different than my own.  Digital cameras, video recorders, and the Internet have all changed the way memories are “preserved” as well as the quantity of moments that are captured. Hundreds of photos are now easily and inexpensively taken at a child’s first birthday party with a digital camera.  My first birthday, shot on film, is captured with handful of photographs.  My eyes are probably closed in all of them.

As an adult, Ezra will be able to look back at the thousands of photographs taken this year alone, listen to Amanda and I share our stories about his early life, and even read this blog to piece together his early biography.  As a parent, I realize how much control I have in shaping the “memories” Ezra will have of this part of his life.  The photographs we share and the stories we tell will help determine his perception of his first years.  We decide for example whether to photograph Ezra when he is happily playing or when he is upset.  We can choose to write only about his embarrassments or his triumphs.  We hope the version of Ezra’s life we are documenting is closer to nonfiction than fiction –not too biased or edited, and perhaps one day he will come across something that triggers a real memory. Regardless of whether or not that memory is of his first birthday party, we hope his party was a special day that will be remembered fondly by all of the party’s guests, Amanda and me.
 The autumn portion of the decorations.
Garry inviting guests to share their first memories.

 Mingling before dinner.

First birthday wish.

 Unwrapping gifts.

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