On Nov. 20, we all spent some time at the Swarthmore Firehouse. For a three-year-old boy and a five-year-old boy, a birthday party in the firehouse is nirvana. As the mother of one of the guests said, "It doesn't get any better than that, does it? " The table was in the bay where the ambulance truck normally sits, between the vintage firetrucks (1923 and 1928) and the new $800,000 ladder truck. No party decorations necessary.
Swarthmore has volunteer firefighters, and three of them were on hand. One put on his whole outfit in front of the kids, so they would know not to be afraid if they ever need to be rescued from a burning house. Lessons in survival skills at a birthday party. "It doesn't get any better than that."--me.
The chief took them on a tour of the firehouse. ("They have a television upstairs. Cool.") Then they rode in the truck, in two batches. Very bumpy, and they got to ride backwards. Will, Jack, and their friends Christopher and Alex spent most of the time arguing about what state the firetruck was driving to, New Jersey, Texas, or New Mexico.
Although I do love to bake birthday cakes and make primitive-looking smudged pictorial representations of fierce creatures and powerful vehicles on the top, this year's cake was from Terstappen's, with a beautiful firetruck picture, no visible crumbs, and a highly legible "Happy Birthday Will and Jack."
Anyway. (That word, serving as one sentence, reminds me of a great Roddy Doyle story in the Nov. 29 New Yorker, of the I-really-hope-this-doesn't-happen-to-our-marriage-but-oh-god-it-just-might sort.) There we all were, a small bunch of parents who (wonderful people!) decided to stay with their children instead of hurriedly dumping them off and then returning to collect them one minute shy of the official end time. And eight wired little boys and two very civilized little girls.
"I'm ready for pizza!!!" announced Christopher in a very loud voice. "We don't have pizza, but we have some yummy snacks!" I chirped gamely. "Is apple cider all there is to drink?" he bellowed. No wonder his father had left to "run some errands." Christopher proceeded to dislike the ice cream (Jack's choice, cherry chocolate chip) and his favor, a kazoo. "You can't win them all," as my mother in law said. I think he had a good time anyway, not that I care, the ungrateful little wretch. He did give Will and Jack really loud plastic toys that they love, and that Will sleeps with, so it's a wash.
"Did the boys buy this shared birthday party idea?" you ask. I don't know yet. I thought we had explained the concept in excruciating detail many times. But yesterday, when I was explaining to Will that his actual birthday is November 30, he said "That's when I have my police party!"