Your father is writing to you because you won’t remember much about your 4th birthday. By the time you can read, you’ll probably have forgotten all details of the event.
My job is to remember for you, put enough down in writing so you can convert all those fuzzy-memory feelings in vivid-memory pictures. You loved your party. This is what happened…
You had a small celebration on your real birthday.
It was all family, with a little caramel cake from our local supermarket. You’d had your big present, a pink bicycle, weeks ago - in good time for you to use it during the summer (only there was no summer in Ireland this year).
Your real party was on Saturday.
This was your first large-scale birthday party. I must admit, if it was up to me, I’d probably have waited until next year before braving the excitement of what happened. But your Mum persuaded me. By the time your day came, I was all for it.
One of your grandmothers came from Limerick. Without her, we’d have been in trouble. She worked away in the background all through the party, kept the kitchen in order by washing everything as soon as it got put down.
The party was well planned.
At least five planning sessions, conversations at which I took notes. There was food & partying to sort out. There were children & adults to be considered. We’d been told the fashion in Cork is for adults to stay chatting all through the children’s party.
For adults we provided
- tortilla chips (Doritos) & salsa (Doritos Mild),
- smoked mackerel pate (homemade by Granny, fish from English Market),
- assorted cheeses (4) & biscuits
- smoked salmon, on brown bread with lemon & black pepper
- apple crumble (homemade by Granny)
- red & white wine (from Curious Wines)
For you & your friends
- Rice Krispies cupcakes
- chocolate biscuit cake (cut into small bits)
- biscuits with coloured icing on top
- fish fingers, chicken nuggets & cocktail sausages
- raspberry jelly & ice cream
- chocolate cake with 4 candles
- plastic bottles of red liquid & water
- party bags for the end
Not only did the menu have to be planned, but the timing too. We drew up a schedule, to try and ensure we wouldn’t be overrun by all your friends & your demands.
But what about the party?
First, it was to be two hours:3-5pm. I was going to do a treasure hunt. I was going to do Pass-the-Parcel (ensuring there would be a prize for each layer). I was thinking of other games. I felt confident I’d be able to carry it off.
Then we thought about the weather.
That was easy: it would be awful -as it’s been for ages. We’d have to cram everyone into the house, as it flogged down outside.
The numbers to invite grew. The space available seemed to shrink.
Eventually, I gave in to the idea that an expert might be just what we needed.
That’s why we called Fairy Meadow - a 261 year old Fairy. We got her when the person we wanted was booked up, and told us off for leaving it so late. She recommended Fairy Meadow.
Fairy Meadow can provide a party for up to 16 children from 3-8 yrs. I left all that business of booking her to your mother. All I knew was that Fairy Meadow was due (from another party) at 3.30pm. She would go on until 6pm. It meant I had to look after the first 30 minutes.
We had to contact all the parents to tell them the party was extended to 3 hours: not one complained.
You helped set the table.
Put out all the plastic cups.
Fairy Meadow came with a big treasure box full of goodies.
She even brought you a lovely gift of a fine mug. I hope you still have it.
At one minute to three, we were twiddling thumbs, thinking no one was coming. Within 5 minutes, the house was full of your friends from the estate, the crèche, and cousins from Limerick. The first four mothers dropped their kids, and ran off, delighted to be given some ‘free time’. I suppose it was a compliment to us that we were entrusted with their treasures.
But it looked as if all the adult food was going to go to waste. When Eugene came with David, Darragh and a little girl (whose name I can’t remember), I actively encouraged him to stay. I think I wanted some male support.
Your friends at the party were :
Megan, Emily, Rachel, Ashling, Jane, Alicia, Daniel, Maeve, James, Andrew, Suzanna, David, Darragh Louis, Anna, Sarah & Noel. (18 of you in all)
The adults who stayed for all the party: Noelle, Treassa, Don, Maria, Nuala, Eugene…
All I remember from the start of the party was greeting people, putting any presents you got away upstairs, & you charging up to your bedroom with four of your closest girlfriends.
There were boys wondering if there were going to be any other boys there. Children split between those who wanted to play outside on swings, trampoline or footballs, or inside around the house.
When Fairy Meadow was late by 4 minutes, I was already counting the seconds.
I was in controlled panic, making sure each adult had a drink or someone to talk to. Those who had both were ‘jammy’.
The arrival of herself brought with it a short period of great anxiety: would she be able to pull all these energetic children together in one room, or even outside? Would you throw a wobbly? (Your brother Jacob did at his 4th birthday party in 1986.) Would this become one party?
Within a few minutes Fairy Meadow had made an impression, captivated you & your friends.
She had you hanging on her every word, whatever she said. As you know, my hearing is poor, so I have no idea what stories she told you all. But she had that wonderful big treasure box full of party tools. Costumes, facepaints, toys… all helped her become the centre of your attention, outside and inside.
The weather tried its best to trick us into thinking it was going to be dry enough for a picnic outside. It slipped between spitting rain and damp-dry all afternoon, profoundly overcast, and windy too. You had a party that moved around.
The plan was to feed you all at 4.30pm.
I had to dash out to buy something we’d forgotten. Came back to see the fishfingers (which we’d bought from a man with a van) being cut up & put out on paper plates. This was the bit that bothered me most. The hot food wasn’t quite ready when you lot broke for food. But that didn’t whip up any protests.
You all wandered out into the garden.
The facepainting began.
This was wonderful, the ideal activity for filling the food time as a queue formed. I got plenty of photographs. Later, there was pass-the-parcel, musical chairs and I was exhausted. Did no games, and still was worn out.
There were group photographs and, to be honest, I can’t remember what else happened. What I do know is that
- there were no fights
- no injured children
- nothing broken
- a couple of bits of tears, but nothing serious
- lots of smiles.
I almost forgot the entry of the cake with 4 candles.
This was my highpoint. I carried it to the table for you to blow. I left the rest to Fairy Meadow.
Your cousin Sarah got a great photo of you blowing the flames.
And I got down low to take this one…
I didn’t know how old Fairy Meadow was until towards the end. One of your friends told me she was 261 years old. She looked great for that age.
The adults were glued to the party.
They hung around in the kitchen watching all.
Picking up tips? Wishing they could be a fairy?
The other good thing was that many of them were meeting for the first time.
We handed out two sets of party bags. Pink ones for you know who. Multicoloured ones for the others. Water pistols proved the most popular. But I think you girls loved the bracelets. Even though I got most of the goodies in Smyths toyshop, I can’t remember what else was in the bags. At least we didn’t forget to have party bags.
The plan now is to gradually give you the presents, so that you’re not overwhelmed by too many at once.
I have to say it was a great party. Great for everyone. You seemed to love it. Without Fairy Meadow, we’d have survived - but it wouldn’t have been so great.
There was no greater accolade than when we were waving goodbye to the Limerick cousins, as they finally left at 8.30pm, rolling down the window and shouting "it was the best party we were ever at."
I’ve written this for you because as each day goes by I remember less. The photographs bring back so many memories. I hope you enjoy reading this.
PS: photographs on the way soon.