Today was Dee’s seventh birthday party, and I forgot my camera.
I was a little bit devastated, actually. I had bought the girls semi-matching, ultra-cute outfits, and Dee has been putting off a haircut because she wanted me to do something special with her hair. I realize I’m not the most unbiased party here, but god those girls were sweet. Tee with her soon-to-be trademark ‘chignon’ and Dee with her (amateurish, but still really, really cute) crown of braids.
Dee had been asking for a party at Midway for several months. It’s a little pricey, as far as party places go, but it’s THE place among the first-grade set, and I wanted to do something to make her party stand out. Her six little friends were all available to come, and after a quick run-through this morning, I learned that of the 6 (chosen nearly 3 weeks ago) only one would have been left out if the choice was to have been made today. That’s not bad odds, when you’re seven.
As much as it irks me to fork out a bunch of money for a birthday party, and as much as it double-irks me that children’s birthdays have turned into a frenzy of one-upmanship and extravaganzas, I do admit that I loved the simplicity of this: call in a credit card number and show up. Everything else is taken care of; no scrubbing bathrooms beforehand, no cooking, no tear-inducing cake decoration, no clean-up afterwards. And best of all? No straggling kids whose parents either don’t show up on time, or don’t know how to make their children COME THE HELL DOWNSTAIRS AND PUT YOUR COAT ON!
All I needed to remember was my giant sack of loot bags and my camera.
And then I forgot my camera.
As soon as the children were set loose in the jungle gym, as soon as I saw Tee’s little chignon bouncing away from me above her sweet little purple frock, I realized I’d forgotten my camera. I tried to convince Gee to go back home and get it but he flat-out refused (damn sensible man that he is).
And so, we were left to enjoy the day for what it was: eight little girls playing and running and laughing and being ridiculous without having to stop and pose and be recorded at every minute. Eight little girls who never knew life in the pre-digital age, and who have probably been photographed hundreds, if not thousands of times, not once mugging for the camera. And Gee and I were there to witness it, to be active participants rather than unconscious voyeurs, and we realized that you don’t have to record an event in order to make it real. You don’t have to have digital evidence of kids having fun in order for them to have it.
And they had it. They had the time of their lives. And near the end of it, Dee appeared by my side with her beautiful, soft, serene smile, and thanked me for a wonderful day.
And that? That’s not just enough. That is everything.