Around and About

Our Teenager’s Birthday Party

I last put together a birthday party for a fifteen year-old in 1977…um, forty-six years ago…and it was for a girl (daughter)…so I was a tad rusty heading into a party for our Peruvian grandson.

Why is putting together a party for kids more difficult than a party for grownups?

Recalling my very first child’s birthday party–for David, age one–I was a wreck. So many decisions to make! Couldn’t settle on what I felt would be THE GREAT CELEBRATORY CHOICES. I was as indecisive as my one-year-old.

I guess planning a complex social engagement for kids is difficult because children are less predictable–no, not less, un-predictable. And they are fussier–in the regard they don’t yet know their own minds, therefore every moment is effectively a sort of trial–on YOU, the mom/dad/grand/cook/whatever…trying now this out, now that… What do you think? I don’t know…no idea what I think…how’m I supposed to know what I think at this point in my life?

At least that’s sometimes the impression we get from our dear Cameron at this point in his life.

Small wonder…I’m still trying to figure myself out. After all, the whole of life is a voyage of discovery…right?

Last Sunday, Cameron completed his fifteenth year on our planet. For a party, Cameron did know he’d like friends to come for a sleepover. Super. Because some of his gang had Sunday plans, we celebrated with three good friends on Saturday. I planned to make them a pasta supper–Cameron chose pappardelle over spaghetti–then a pancake birthday breakfast. Cameron said one friend was a vegetarian (we’re in Santa Cruz, remember), so no meat in the pasta sauce, and no bacon, thanks.

Preparing for his party, I was touched that Saturday morning, the still-14-year-old asked, “Grandma do you have a piece of cloth I can use for my room?” “To do what with?” “You know, for the desk…” “You mean a dust cloth…a rag?” “I guess so.” Doubtless you realize how revelatory that he didn’t know the English word for a dust rag because he’s never seen one in my hand… But his beautiful Peruvian mother is Queen of Clean and no question Cameron knows the Spanish term for dust rag… Found one. Half an hour later he came out of his room with a handful of grey and said, “What do I do with it?” Beguiling.

At the market I bought two big jars of the tomato sauce he likes and because Cameron loves mushrooms, a jillion mushrooms (treated myself to a “family size” box of SLICED MUSHROOMS–never done that, but it seemed reasonable under the circumstances) and boxes of beautiful Italian pappardelle. Also treated myself to a kit of Caesar Salad….Cameron doesn’t like salad, I insist he have some every night, but he has been known to enjoy a Caesar Salad…and since Bill and I can no longer eat that dressing, a kit for the kids also seemed reasonable. I even asked Cameron at one point in the day if he’d like bits of kale or spinach (both of which for a wonder he does like) mixed into the Caesar Salad, and of course the answer was No thank you.

Then I panicked. Didn’t think the Caesar Salad kit, which served 4, would be enough, so I went back to the market and bought a fresh head of organic romaine lettuce and a bottle of organic Caesar Salad dressing. Also bought a half-gallon tub of the best vanilla ice cream to go with the apple pie. Did I mention Cameron requested apple pie for his birthday cake?

For sustenance in Cameron’s room where the whole entire party would take place, I bought two bags of his choice of Jolly Ranchers hard candies…one big barrel of miscellaneous junky chips/crackers/pretzels…twelve cans of Sprite…and at some point I’d make popcorn…

The guests arrived. Hoots and laughter in Cameron’s room. I knocked on the door and handed Cameron a basket with four cans of chilled Sprite.

Again I was a wreck. Why? I forget why but I was. Oh yes. On account of the apple pie. The day had whizzed by so quickly I didn’t think to start the procedure with the pastry and apples till around three o’clock. Oy. But I managed. Made a 12-inch pie (instead of the classic 9-inch), imagining the young boys would gobble it down. So I was frantic with the kitchen upside down from rolling out pie dough and peeling and slicing apples when the guests arrived…

When the pie was baked–and it looked OK–I couldn’t find the little candles of HAPPY BIRTHDAY letters and birthday numbers. Couldn’t couldn’t couldn’t find them. Tried to think where on earth I’d hid them. Finally I had to run to my upside-down study and make a banner from a skewer and a bright yellow envelope (only colorful paper I could find).

Just so’s you’ll know, today I found the candles–stacked on top of the bookcase in Bill’s and my bedroom…what on earth were they doing there so far from the kitchen? Should I start to worry about my brain? (I’ve tucked the two boxes at the back of my kitchen’s Miscellaneous Drawer. Safe.)

I was also frantic because I’d expected to make my customary pasta sauce with sautéed onions/carrots/celery/garlic/mushrooms that Cameron loves, but it was too late to sauté seasoning veggies so I just browned the pre-sliced mushrooms. Got the pappardelle cooked, dumped it into the mushroomed sauce in its big pan, got out a jar of finely grated Pecorino (I instantly fretted was anyone besides Cameron accustomed to a sheeps’ milk cheese? but it was the cheese I found fastest in the fridge) and another jar of mixed slivers of Parmesan, Romano,  Asiago) and put them on the table (with a little huffle of a vegan’s sigh). While Bill set the places (customarily Cameron’s job) I tossed the Caesar Salad, set out the jug of apple cider, called the boys to supper.

Cameron was a gracious host, serving everyone the way I do every night. I was pleased, impressed. He is a marvelous young man (started to say boy but I guess at fifteen with a deep voice and suspicion of a mustache on his upper lip, he is no longer a boy).

The pie was OK. Pastry crisp, but the Gala apple juices wanted more thickening.

Re: the monster tub of vanilla ice cream, the four boys took only an inch off the top.

Half the pasta left.

Half the Caesar salad.

Half the pie.

Sunday morning, Cameron’s birthday day, they were up with the sun…we thought they’d sleep till mid-morning.

I hopped to it, started the buttermilk pancakes. From a box. Bottle of fresh orange juice set out with glasses. Little tubs of cut-up peaches set out with spoons. Nobody wanted cocoa or tea, one or the other of which I make for Cameron every morning.

Mixed the pancake batter, heated up three cast iron skillets. I don’t know why but at that point the smoke alarm went off. And the worst of it is that our alarm is set on the front of the house and when I create smoke over my stove, the whole neighborhood knows it. Very embarrassing. So that went on–with the alarm company calling on my cell phone–for about ten  minutes while I was trying to bake pancakes and appear unflustered.

At that point, moms and dads began arriving to pick up their sons.

“May I offer you coffee?” Grandpa asked of them. No thank you.

The boys liked the pancakes. I cooked up a second batch without setting off the smoke alarm.

Our kitchen is in plain view of the living room and dining table and I noticed the parents sneaking glimpses of me–with politeness but a deal of curiosity…who is this old lady with a fifteen-year-old Peruvian and she can’t even make pancakes without burning them at this time in her long life?  I was wondering the same thing…

Then they were all gone except for one boy (our favorite), who stayed for the afternoon and from Cameron’s room I again heard hoots and laughter…

Time for our breakfast. Bill wanted pancakes but for us vegans, the buttermilk pancake mix obviously wouldn’t work. I consulted the vegan cookbooks I’d sent for–whoa, a recipe for Blueberry Lemon Pancakes. Made them with Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour. To our surprise and delight, the pancakes were the best we’ve eaten in a very long time. Huzzah.

How’s New Veganhood going in our house? I’ll admit both Bill and I cadged a few creamy Caesar Salad leaves and, yes, both of us ate apple pie including its buttery crust. But Sunday morning at my weekly weigh-in I found I’m continuing to lose weight and I promise I won’t be bad again. Ever. Promise.

Oh yes. We measured Cameron on The Measuring Wall and he now is 5′ 6-3/4″ tall. Grew three inches this last year. I guess my cooking is OK…

It’s lovely having a fifteen-year old in our household. A handsome brilliant charmer.

Next year when Cameron turns sixteen, maybe I’ll be cool as a cucumber and put his party together properly–at least I’ll know where the “Happy Birthday” letters and numbers for his apple pie are.

I hope.

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