Early Birthday Party

“It’s a machine” La Serpiente cooed, as she unwrapped her first birthday present this morning. (As she’s going to have her birthday in Canada, we thought we’d spread the gift giving out over this week – and all the way through until we get to England.) I’d wrapped up an instant camera I was given as corporate swag about three years ago, and La Serpiente was quite excited by that, and by the new Duplo we’d acquired secondhand. We got her to take a few photos, marvelled at the blurry, out-of-focus results, and got on with breakfast.

A year ago, La Serpiente looked like this at her birthday party:
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She was almost delirious with happiness; she’d spent the previous 7 days singing the her happy birthday song (“happy … birthday, happy … birthday, happy … birthday” ad infinitum) and by the time her cake arrived, she was fit to burst.

Today, she was getting over being up all night with a terrible cough, and feeling lousy with a 38 degree fever this morning.

We took her to the doctor, dosed her up with calpol, and let her lie lethargically on her mother’s lap all morning, watching an entire series of Peppa Pig. We thought about cancelling the party, but the purple cake would go to waste, along with all the decorations, the party hats, the invites, the disappointed guests. In the end we figured she would be happier to go along and beat a quick retreat after the candle had been blown out. So she napped, and I went to the venue to decorate, and we hoped.

She woke still unhappy, desperate to be held and vocal about it. I was exhausted from stringing crepe paper from the walls and failing to inflate balloons, but we all got in a taxi, above her protestations, and went to Tickle Tickle, a brightly lit play gym inside the Delta Sports Complex, down in Redhill. The cake, a magnificent, light purple edifice had arrived just before us, but even the sight of party hats and purple food didn’t light up La Serpiente’s heart. As the guests began to arrive and make the squeaking noises common to two- and three-year-olds, La Serpiente hardly raised a murmur. Except to howl and demand that she be held by her mother.

After an hour of this, some of the charm was wearing off, and Destroyer needed feeding. I still can’t lactate (what’s going on, I hear you ask – Destroyer’s almost a year old, haven’t you got that sorted yet?) so instead we transferred La Serpiente to me, and found pretty quick that I was no substitute today for her mother. She shook and howled with upset, even as she clung to me, and then, as I bobbed her up and down and tried to console her, she was a little bit sick, her stomach disrupted by all her shouting.

A little bit of sick on my shoulder, I thought. I’d just wipe it off and continue. Then she boked all down my front, a puddle of stuff that looked and stank like week-old milk. I moved back towards my wife, where the wipes were, and she went for a third counterblast to agnosticism, this time drenching my shorts (including the pocket with my phone in) and then continued to howl.

As I stupidly failed to pack a change of clothes for me, I spent the rest of the party half naked, and I still stank of vomit. She’d got it on my neck, in my beard, all inside my shirt, a comprehensive soaking. La Serpiente perked up a little after this, but we have the saddest photo of a birthday, of her ashen-faced, staring at her cake like it’s the end of the world, with some halfwit with no shirt in the background, hovering behind her mother and sister. Certainly a memory to save for her 21st…

Still, she stuck it out to the end of the party, and then when we got home she went straight to bed (at six!) and now, dosed up with more meds, has stopped coughing. I hope and pray that she’s back to full service tomorrow.

The cake was great though.

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