Birthday party celebration, one-year-old style

by Jan Wheatcroft

I have a granddaughter named Violet. She is the child of my younger son. He is a super father—loving, playful, thoughtful and hands-on. And my daughter-in-law is a fabulous mother—warm and caring. Together they have produced this delightful child who is both serious and funny, and an intense little explorer.

The sad part is that they live too far away for daily contact. Although San Francisco isn’t the moon, it does mean that her southern California relatives have to resort to Facetime or Skype on the computer to follow her accomplishments. Last month, she turned one. It was hard to believe that a whole year had passed since I had gone north to witness her birth and hold her for the first time. This was my third visit and I was returning for her first birthday party.

It was a simple party as far as the children were concerned; a picnic at a local park with lots of grass to roll around on and great play equipment to challenge all youngsters of all ages. However, as far as her parents were concerned there had been a great deal of planning to make things run smoothly. A tent was erected and the food and drink arranged underneath.

They prepared the cleverest of decorations that were charming, simple and smart. They had enlarged  many different photos of Violet’s face from their collection of photographs, then glued them together back to front so that Violet smiled from both sides. Using wrapping and crepe paper, they made triangular hats and hung the hatted faces all around the top of the tent. It was so festive and so personal and distinctively Violet. It was perfect.

Lori, my daughter-in-law, had prepared four large and varied quiches and her mother and I cut up huge bowls of fresh fruit. My son Zac brought in large boxes of Starbucks coffee and beer and wine with light drinks for the children. 

The weather turned out perfectly. The children ran about, played, tried out all of the equipment and were happily busy all morning, stopping for intakes of food and then running off to play again.

Violet ran about on her newly-upright legs as she coveted paper from the gift wrapping and waved it about. Towards the end of the morning, homemade cupcakes were brought out; just the right size for children (and adults needing to limit their intake of sweets.) Zac and Lori worked hard to make the party a success and to have it run smoothly and seem effortless. It wasn’t, of course, and I imagine the cleanup  was hard work as well. I, however, went back to my digs for a nap. Is that what Grandma’s do?

For dinner on the actual day of Violet’s birthday, the whole family assembled around the tables to feast on homemade lasagna, which Zac and I had worked on companionably during the early afternoon, and a large salad. Violet is a great eater as well as being easy going about both being fed and feeding herself.  It’s very satisfying for a grandparent. 

The piece de resistance was the birthday cake with its candles, which Violet helped blow out. The cake was placed in front of her and her parents sat on either side. We all took photos with our iPhones. She tentatively poked her finger into the frosting and mushed it about and after a few pokes she stuck it into her daddy’s mouth. She enjoyed mushing it and the tasting and sharing with her father and soon they had red noses and mouths from the red roses. I have a whole series of pictures from her cake-playing pleasure. 

On the Sunday before I left, Lori, Zac and I took Violet to the Discovery Museum for small children near the Golden Gate Bridge. This was one of my favorite things to do with her. The things for her to explore and try out were simple and a lot of them were just at her level. There were xylophones on the ground with lots of sticks to hit them to make noise.  It was fun to see that she was just as happy to hit the log seats as to bang on the xylophones. Nobody corrected her…..this was her discovery.

Lori and I took photos as Violet looked so sweet wearing a colorful pinafore dress and Susie Sunshine hat.  Zac banged away on the xylophones—he has that ability to enjoy things along with children. He interacts so well with his daughter.

Afterwards, we visited an area where water flowed in a trough and children could splash their hands in the water. The best room was where all shoes came off. Tunnels, caves and spongy, jumpy platforms were available for small children to crawl or walk through as they peeked out of nets and holes and rocked back and forth. Parents delighted in watching their children enjoy the experience. 

It is too bad that we live far enough away from each other to make easy visiting possible, but each visit is a treat and, during holiday time, they do come here as all of the grandparents live in Claremont. We’re all eager to watch her grow and love her up. I look forward to more time together. The changes happen so quickly. Language development is next and that will be exciting. Each stage brings its own joys and pleasures.


LOGISTICS OF TRAVEL. I did drive up one time but never used my car at all, so this time I flew up to Oakland Airport with Southwest Airlines and my son picked me up. I have used Lyft before and find that a useful alternative. I stayed in an AirB&B type place a block away from my son’s house and could just walk over easily. Since the purpose was to be there with the family for the three days, it was the easiest way for all of us.


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