The Second Pandemic Birthday

When my kids were young, I used to plan elaborate themed birthday parties. They really couldn’t appreciate the work that I put in, but they always enjoyed having friends over and lots of food. As they got older, they opted to substitute a party for a trip to a hotel with an indoor waterpark. And that was the case last year – in March of 2020 – when Quentin was turning 8 years old.

A mere few days before his birthday, everything shut down due to the pandemic.

We had to cancel our waterpark plans in favor of a birthday cake at home. One by one, we have each celebrated a birthday at home, without much fanfare, over the past year. We did “parties” via Zoom with family, opening gifts on camera.

And now here we are again, at Quentin’s birthday. One year later. And still no waterpark getaway.

I was so devastated for him last year on his birthday. It was the first real recognition I had of what we would be sacrificing – though I had no idea at the time how long we would continue to sacrifice. While vaccines are now a reality and we are patiently waiting our turn, I was sad for my son who has now spent both his 8th and 9th birthdays at home. Out of the birthdays he remembers, that’s a lot.

I know there are far worse struggles, but it matters a lot to a kid. The days have been so unbearably mundane and uneventful that there was little to separate his birthday from “every other Thursday.” The night before, he said “Maybe we can turn out house into an escape room!” and I think the parents had a “deer caught in headlights” look as we wondered how we could pull that off with one day’s notice. (We couldn’t.)

At least this year he was in the classroom for part of his birthday, whereas last year he was home. I hope that his teacher gave him a hearty “happy birthday!” in the morning.

We owe Quentin a giant birthday celebration when it is safe to gather again.