The birthday invitation was for two o’clock on a Saturday sent by a classmate of my grandson. I was thrilled he had adjusted well to kindergarten; making new friends, discovering the joys of learning and life beyond the world of our friendly little neighborhood.
Now the next social step presented itself, the birthday party. I telephoned our RSVP while my grandson bubbled with excitement about the prospect of seeing his friends outside of school and having fun at the local roller skating rink. I, on the other hand, was a little hesitant. My memories of roller rink birthday parties attended with my children were on par with my first visit to the periodontist. However, this event wasn’t about me, it was about my grandson enjoying social time with his peers. Off we go to the local toy store, spend 35 minutes deciding and with much negotiation we at last have a gift purchased, wrapped and in hand.
On the appointed day, we arrive five minutes early (teaching children social graces such as promptness is high on my priority list) and the rush of memory hits me the instant the door closes behind us. We’re greeted by blaring rock and hip-hop music, flashing lights, and scores of children flying by in haphazard direction on 4, 6, or 8 wheels. The only order is inside the rink itself. “Skaters in clockwise circle only please” crackles over the PA system. Before us are row upon row of tables with reserved signs; Isaiah’s Party, Mia’s Party, Olivia’s party all forming a continuous domino like line. We find our host’s family table and smile pleasantries and exchange thank yous then off we go to the rental counter and skates that bear the wear of thousands of children’s feet. Would it be paranoid to pour hand sanitizer on the inner soles? Skates are fitted and it’s onto the wooden rink floor, dodging the experienced and blending with the ‘don’t let me’ fall crowd. I, skate less, and grandson on wheels makes a difficult pair. At 5 yrs old he’s coordinated enough but his inexperience on wheels and the deafening din of the music makes it impossible for any instruction so we settle for “I’ll stand still and you pull me Nana” mode. Naturally, his idea, not mine. Needless to say, once around the rink was the limit for me and his frustration was beginning to show so we decided to return the skates and check back at the table for party food.
The usual fare greeted us. Pizza and drinks delivered just minutes before and served on Star Wars matching plates and cups with a cake sporting Darth Vader and Yoda. Who would have thought Star Wars was back in fashion? All gifts are quickly packed up at parties these days which is a blessing and avoids the occasional teary child wanting to ‘help’ open them and several more ripping at the toys to be the first to play and leaving the birthday child in a meltdown.
A little more time for skating or arcade games (we opted for the latter and had a blast race car driving!) and then it was done. Party over. An hour and a half had passed as I glanced at my watch and offered a silent prayer as the birthday Mom handed out goodie bags. (*note, these are a must and require a computer generated thank you note inside) Once more we smiled and exchanged thank yous to kids and parents alike. I sifted through a Mt Helen’s size pile of coats to find ours, congratulated the birthday boy and ran for the nearest exit sign to the sunshine beyond. Hand and hand we walked to the car and my grandson beamed up a smile to me, “Nana? Wasn’t that cool? I had a great time!”
And then it came as I knew it would. “Can I have my birthday at the roller rink?” That sweet face and set of deep dimples almost had me but I managed the age old reply created by and for all grandparents.
“We’ll see.” And then I smiled.