Here’s a word to the wise: don’t have a baby at Thanksgiving. I used to be really pleased with myself about having babies on calendar holidays, because it gave me the perfect excuse not to have a party, since everyone’s busy anyway. This smugness only lasted as long as my children had no clue what was going on - a time capsule that has apparently closed. This year, as Olive turned 3, it was made vehemently clear to me that I had to provide a birthday party option in amongst what is arguably one of the more stressful weeks of the year. What I’m learning about North American living is that wherever there’s a turkey, there’s stress.
This year, thanks to my clever timing with birth, we had my birthday (40th, I’m ok with it), Thanksgiving, and Olive’s birthday all within the space of about 48 hours. Frank and I went from fabulous, celebratory (drunk) Thanksgiving hosts to 6.50am partycake bakers in our pyjamas. It was not an easy transition. I was under strict instructions from Olive to provide a purple cake with pink icing, but purple is a hard colour to muster when you’re not very food colour savvy, and your eyes aren’t ready to be open yet. When the cake emerged with a flourish from the oven, it looked more of a turgid flesh colour, like a dead body pulled from a river on CSI. First task failed, party guests arriving in 20 minutes, nobody showered or dressed.
I don’t know if anybody else has noticed that guinea pigs are taking over the world, but if you have a 3 year old daughter in your house, you will know what I mean. Zhu-Zhu guinea pig beepy weird things are huge point-scorers, and Frank is on his game. Having found the right pink guinea pig in Walmart, he also found a tubular slide thing for it to go down, which I can tell you was outstanding work. What he didn’t anticipate was spending ages assembling the slide at the party, while a pack of 8 children breathed on the back of his head, their fingers twitching. He did well under pressure, but once the slide was fully functional, we couldn’t for the life of us find the guinea pig toy. Where had it gone? Mass panic broke out. All the adults in the room started shouting, “Who had it LAST?” in voices that were getting more and more high-pitched and accusatory. The 8-child pack was running from room to room, overturning chairs and ravaging small drawers as it went. Soon it would turn on us.
There was such a frenzy to find the guinea pig, that yet again, I found myself kneeling on the sitting room floor, bum in the air, face under the sofa, squinting into the darkness. It is my most common activity, the sofa squint, along with washing dishes. It’s all I do now. On this occasion, my adrenalin was high, and as I thought I could see the pink toy in a far corner, I took a deep, excited breath, hoovering the world’s biggest dust-bunny straight into my mouth. I think it would be fair to say that had I placed an entire, live guinea pig in my mouth, it would have been less hairy. As I ran to the kitchen sink to scrape 5lbs of hairy dust from my tongue, I heard cheers of joy as the pink guinea pig was found behind a skateboard with its nose pressed against a corner. For the remainder of the party, I sat sullenly hacking up hairballs, like Garfield.
As the party guests were leaving, I realised that somebody had found the blue food colouring I’d used to make my grey dead-flesh cake, and that the same person had dropped it on the floor, created a blue puddle, and then trodden the puddle all around our house. I couldn’t find the culprit but I did try, pulling people’s feet out from under them to inspect the bottoms of their socks with a muttering, mad-person way about me. This is how I will be remembered at my daughter’s 3rd birthday party: the crazy-eyed one with the chesty cough and the foot fetish. It’s lucky the people at the party had some prior knowledge of me.
I never did track that perpetrator down, but there are blue dye stains all over my wood floor. I’m past caring. Olive draws on the floor every 20 minutes in what are misleadingly called washable colours, and I never notice until her work is far from washable. But in the words of another good hairy hamster I know, that is another story.