Pandemic Birthdays

Birthdays always generate a lot of excitement around our house. And, in truth, we have a lot of birthdays to celebrate. They seem to cluster around August and September in our family and so it feels like we have been celebrating a birthday every other week for the last couple months. My kids don’t seem to mind. Any reason to have some cake and and party is an excellent reason in their book.

In fact, this year, my 5 year old informed me in early May that his favorite toy, a hard tall (almost 2 feet) version of a T-Rex had a birthday later that week on Thursday.

“Oh,” I said. “How lovely. Might he mind if we celebrate on Friday when I have the day off?”

“Oh yes,” my son told me. “In fact, his birthday is somewhat flexible, so we can really celebrate anytime…Friday works for us.”

Like I said, birthdays in our house are quite important and we find lots of reasons to have a party. Usually our family birthdays are small and simple. However, there are the occasional exceptions to our simplicity rule.

The first birthday that my daughter remembers celebrating was her Lola’s (grandmothers) birthday in Florida. Let me preface this story with the fact that we normally don’t celebrate birthdays this way. Our family is really more of a “what special meal do you want for dinner?” kind of family. Or a “how about choosing your party decorations?” kind of family.

A number of years ago we went down to Florida and had a family reunion with my husband’s side of the family. It was Lola’s 75th birthday and her kids (my husband included) wanted it to be really special for her. One arranged renting a large boat (small yacht) and another arranged a limousine ride to the boat to really surprise her. At the time my eldest was about 5 and she remembers the excitement of all of this well.

Shortly after Lola turned 75, my daughter had her birthday and when asked what she would like to do for her birthday, she felt a limousine and yacht would be great. We explained that was a really special celebration that Lola had earned after living three quarters of a century. When asked again she toned her ask down a bit, saying she would love– PBJs with sprinkles for lunch and hot dogs for dinner and an underwater mermaid theme. We agreed that it was a perfect party for a 6 year old.

Even though we do not usually do fancy birthday extravaganzas we try our best to have lots of family fun and a great celebration. But what do you do when a loved one has a milestone birthday and you are in a pandemic?

My father-in-law just had a birthday to celebrate 87 years, which is fantastic– I feel like every year at that point is an amazing and wonderful milestone. I set up a Zoom party for him bringing together his family from across 5 time zones. I a not going to lie– that was a little challenging– but it happened nonetheless– what an amazing feat that groups of people who live so far apart can unite to support a loved one in this unusual way in this unusual time.

My Dad, lives with us and just turned 75 years old recently. I don’t know what we would have done to celebrate, but he is not the type of guy who would want a big party or something extravagant. I don’t think I would have ever thought to have a “Zoom party” for him but for the fact that we are in a pandemic. The truth of the matter is that it was an amazing choice.

With family all over the county Zoom Parties are on the rise. If you haven’t been to one yet, you will likely be invited soon. Since families cannot visit one another face to face without concern of COVID, and our elders seem to be most at risk, a Zoom Party just makes sense! And, all of the friends and family who you would really want to see can be there without the hassle of travel, the concern of taking off of work or any of the other reasons people choose not to attend an in-person event. With all of those barriers taken away, people are just giving an hour of their time. It makes attendance easy. Further, we are in a pandemic– people aren’t doing as many things as they were before so they have more time on their hands.

So I arranged a Zoom Party for my Dad with some close family and lifelong friends and what a blessing to see how excited he was to see people and have connection. I know that this pandemic has brought such challenges to our lives but in changing the way we do some things– I think the creativity it has promoted has caused us to think outside of the box and to connect with people in new, different and amazing ways.

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