Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Party

This is from an old diary....I think it makes sense without any explanations, but maybe not. Let me know! That's one of my reasons for posting: how much explanation things need is a big question, always, for me when I write.

February 14
Tonight the kids and I had a Valentine’s Party. We spent all afternoon — or rather, they did — making cards and decorations. I baked a chocolate cake with chocolate icing, and, at their request, decorated it with a “V” (for Valentine’s Day). They said I couldn’t come into the upstairs living-room, where we were to eat on a card table they’d dragged up from downstairs, until they said they were ready. When I went in, they were all wearing their best clothes: the boys had on grey pants, ties, and navy-blue blazers; Rebecca was wearing her new long dress.
Then we went to my closet to choose what I should put on. They all vetoed my first choice — Steven said:
“No, you wore that every day last summer and I’m sick of it.”
Finally Rebecca picked a long white evening dress. When I tried it on, everyone approved:
“Twirl around again, Libby.”
Nathaniel ran downstairs to get me an apron (his idea) so I could finish cooking. Rebecca said,
“Do you feel shy in your dress?”
I nodded, and she said,
“I did too at first but now I don’t.”
They finished “getting set up” while I finished cooking; I heard Benjamin saying,
“Oh, I’m so excited!”
Finally, they were ready and so was the dinner. When I brought it in, all the lights were turned out, candles lit, a fire made; STAR WARS (DA da, dadada DA da) played, over and over. The table had been lovingly set, with little cards and name tags and small piles of candy (I’d given each of them 8 cents to buy it with) by each place. Balloons covered the floor (Benjamin and Steven’s idea — that you shouldn’t be able to take one step without kicking a balloon).
I suggested that we have a toast. Solemnly, everyone filled their glasses and I said:
“Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Everyone clinked glasses all together, carefully, in the middle of the table, very seriously. Then they looked at each other, gave delighted smiles, and said:
“Let’s do it again!”
This time, everyone said, at the same time,
Their demeanor and conversation were an odd mixture of the formal (imitative of their parents’ Sunday dinners?) and childlike. Clearly, this was a special occasion to them, a time for Party Behavior. Everyone ate very politely. I told them I’d made up a song, which I would sing when I brought in the cake. This, too, was a ceremony: they wanted to be told when it was coming so they could be “ready.” When I said I was coming, they all blew whistle pops simultaneously and shrilly. Then Steven shushed them and I sang the song again.
They liked the song. They all wanted a piece of the “V” on their cake. They commented very politely that the cake was good, only the icing (bittersweet chocolate) “a little too sour.” After the cake, we opened the cards we’d made — Nathaniel had written riddles on all of his, with the answer concealed by a small heart (taped on) that you lifted up.
Then we took the Dixie cups by each plate and threw their contents — confetti they had made by cutting colored paper into tiny pieces — into the air.
I felt like a privileged spy from the adult world, witnessing their fantasy of what a party is. They’d prepared it all so lovingly — the little piles of cards and decorations and confetti (it must have taken them a long time to cut up all that paper) by each plate, the balloons, all the candles, the fire, the music, the very best clothes. It was really one of the nicest parties I’ve ever been to.

(from me now) Happy Valentine's Day to all, especially Benjamin, Nathaniel, Steven and Becca!


gael lynch said...

Oh, Libby, I love it! The white dress is perfect too.
When I think about all the Valentine's Days I had with my kids...way back when, I wish now that I'd journaled it all too. Now, they're all out there in the world...and thankfully they are all well-loved. I think that journal entry would make a wonderful picture book, honestly. The candles, the 'v' on the cake, the colored confetti.
I even have a title: Dressing up Valentines...or something like that. What fun!

laurasalas said...

Ooh, you're right, this is like being a spy. All these lovely little details and a window into the kids' minds. Thanks for sharing!

Esp. love the Star Wars music!

Libby Koponen said...

Thank you, Gael and Laura! I had wondered about posting this and am really glad I did now: thanks for your comments and for being so specific.