Saturday, January 21, 2012

birthday parties

When I was a kid, I had epic birthday parties.

I think that word, in the context of birthday parties, has a whiff of terror about it now. The birthday parties that my sister and I had in childhood were not grossly extravagant or populated by hordes of schoolmates, but they were epic. Things I remember: decorating a table full of small white cakes with friends, each of us armed with colored frosting and plastic dinosaurs (I was in love with dinosaurs); a jungle themed carnival in the backyard, of which I distinctly remember a long sheet of paper painted to look like the Limpopo River; our panda bear puppet in a cowboy hat perched on a pile of straw bales; riding ponies with a (very) few of my friends across a scrubby California hill; drinking tea out of flowered cups while wearing a flowered dress and a flowered hat.

I'm sure that for our parents, the parties were stressful occasions, but for me (as far as I can remember), they were sheer pleasure.

On Tuesday, I had a birthday party that was just that. Pleasure all the way through. I went with some friends to the Verdi Club in San Francisco, where they have swing dancing and a live band every Tuesday night. The space is clean and large. The music is fantastic. The people, for the most part, are both polite and bracingly enthusiastic. They are there to dance (not to stand morose in corners or leer or wobble around in too high heels and too short skirts) and it doesn't strike them as odd that a group of young-ish people who don't know the proper steps, are nevertheless stomping and hopping and flinging themselves about however their fancy hits them. I got to hold hands with strangers, and look them in the eye, and dance with them. I got to hold hands with friends, and look them in the eye, and dance with them. We had conversations. We sat in corners and listened to music that called up all those magical, old movies where shadows and light feel more important because they're the only things there are. I felt very grown up. I felt very young. At no time did I find myself regarding a passing moment and thinking that it might be better.

It was wonderful.

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