Bodacious Birthdays

Make each one better than the last.

I love birthdays. Not my own necessarily, which is right around the corner, but everyone else’s. I look at them as an opportunity to show people how glad I am that they were born. It’s likely that this feeling came from my sweet mother as she too loved celebrating birthdays. Mine is close to Easter, so mom’s homemade bunny cakes and clever egg hunts were a common occurrence in my younger years. In exchange, when we would go out to dinner for her birthday, I would sneak off to ask the waiter for a serenade and dessert to make her feel special. I tried this with my older brothers too but quickly learned that being the center of attention in a restaurant was not their idea of birthday fun.

When it was my turn to be the momma, our children’s birthday celebrations were full on theme events. Since this was long before Pinterest and in the early days of the Internet (I know, I’m dating myself), we had to come up with our own ideas. We’re talking costume parties with decorations, food, music, games, and the like following various themes (Halloween costumes work great for these parties by the way)

Our first born arrived two months early so we put a lot of energy into her celebrations. Her most memorable themes were Ladybugs & Butterflies, Hawaiian Luau, Beatrix Potter (who stopped by in costume to read to the girls), and Disney. When she was a teen, we did an “Inside Out and Backward Party.” Everyone wore their clothing inside out and backwards and we did everything in reverse. We started the party with the birthday cake, ended the evening with breakfast, and kicked off the morning after the sleepover with pizza. The girls thought I had lost my mind, but it was a one-of-a-kind birthday.

Our son’s parties had lots of different themes along the way as well from Star Wars to Hot Wheels. The black icing on the race car tires made for priceless pictures because it turned all of the little teeth black. For one of these parties, Mr. Fixit (introduced in a previous Blog) let the lawn grow long so he could mow a maze for the kids to run through and play various yard games – it was a huge hit, and the price was right.

When this same son was in daycare, I was always a little perturbed that the moms put birthday invitations in the cubbies one day before their child’s party. He was rarely able to attend because of the short notice. As an event person, I fixed that problem by passing out 27 invites a week in advance and quickly learned what the other moms clearly knew about not giving too much notice. We had 100% attendance. We live in snow country and woke up to several inches of it on the day of his early June party. The theme was Buzz Lightyear, so we used a large round silver tarp as the spaceship. We put the kids around the perimeter with the birthday boy in the middle for presents, games, and cake. We even had them lift the tarp off the ground (before the cake) and fly it around the room to work off some energy. It was legendary and from that point on, his invitations went in the cubbies the day before his birthday celebration.

As the kids got older the themes gradually faded away but swimming parties, bowling, baseball games, BBQ’s, and bonfires marked many memorable birthdays. One of our standing traditions is to display baby memory books and sometimes run family videos in the background. Even older kids love seeing themselves over the years at the parties and other celebrations. 

Sometimes birthdays coincide with other occasions. Our daughter’s high school graduation fell on her daddy’s 50th birthday so we invented a “Dad and Grad” party. We combined their invitation lists, rented a bus, and hauled everyone up to the Jim Bridger Lodge (which happens to be where the hubby works) for a barbecue, a few beverages, and lots of toasts and memorable pictures. Two cakes, two sets of decorations, two memorabilia tables, two photo mats to sign, and one party to plan, Bam!

For our son’s 21st birthday, the planning was easy, Vegas Baby! Even the uncles got into this celebration with epic beer pong games, “teaching” their nephew how to gamble, and more than one late morning. 

Of course, birthdays are also about gifts. My mother was famous for having the best reactions to presents. She would squeal with delight and sometimes cry over clever gifts. We all tried to outdo each other but one of my brothers always seemed to get it right whether it was the singing frog yard ornament, the anniversary cabin, or just a beautiful potted plant. On her 85th birthday, my husband thought of the gift that won her heart that year. We loaded up a bright basket with every child’s toy we could find. Coloring books, crayons, bubbles, etch a sketch (her favorite), clay, and even a tiara. I can still see her smile as she pulled out each item and got to feel like a little girl again. 

We’ve had a lot of special birthdays in our family recently. The day after his 30th birthday, our daughter’s boyfriend made the leap to becoming her fiancée. His proposal took her completely by surprise since, in true family tradition, her focus had been on planning a special birthday celebration for him. He got it right and she said yes! (There is a wedding blog in the cue.)

In January, my father turned 90. He appeared in a previous blog with the jazzy ski pants. Given the need for social distancing, we had to get very creative to honor this momentous occasion. His celebration began with an ad in his home-town paper inviting well wishes which resulted in a shower of cards and phone calls that warmed his heart. Facebook friends added dozens of messages and special thoughts. His virtual party featured friends and family gathered in various Zoom rooms to wish him well. We managed the technology, so all the birthday boy needed to do was enjoy the attention and reminisce in front of a background of gold balloons. We topped the evening off with a small family dinner, home-made banana cake (his childhood favorite), and a special slide show featuring the nine decades of his wonderful life. It was a truly memorable celebration.

My husband, Mr. Fixit, is turning 60 this year. While he is a man that prefers little fanfare, our thinking caps are already on for how to make the day special in his way. There will be cake, there may be candles, and between the kids and I, this will be another unforgettable occasion. 

Now that our children are adults, we’ve started a new tradition of gathering at vacation rentals to celebrate together. Each home is unique which creates a new experience and lets family members participate in their own way. More and more, people are reserving Cherry Creek Guest House to commemorate their birthdays and special occasions. There is no better place to begin a new year than Bozeman, Montana with a pristine view of the Bridger Mountain range. Great restaurants, plenty of recreation, shopping, and of course, a relaxing home in which to add some memories to the family photo album make for a perfect setting.

The opportunities for your next Montana adventure are unlimited and Cherry Creek Guest House is ready to serve as your home away.

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