Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Let’s Party!


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#1 Son’s birthday is coming soon, and that got me thinking about Birthday Parties We Have Known.

These days, parents all seem to be trying to outdo each other in the party department. A big deal for our boys was once going to the pizza place where they have the game room and dancing critters, although it petrified our youngest.

Now a party isn’t a party unless you take the kids to a place where they can shoot each other with paint balls or hire a limo, fill it with kids and drive around the Big City. (No matter how many kids there are, when they start serving champagne on those trips, I’m in!)

We had lots of birthday parties over the years. Parties where we took the entire soccer team out for pizza and a movie. Theme parties, where all the kids came dressed like a cowboy. We even had slumber parties for which I’d rent several movies for the boys to watch and hopefully doze off–and no one got any sleep.

But my favorite party, the party that will live forever in the soft place of my heart, was one year when my youngest son was turning three or four.

We had been in Pryor Creek for a couple of years, and Brad went to

a babysitter while I worked at our pharmacy. Bradley’s best friend in the world–Little Brad–went there, too. (Little Brad was a year younger, thus the “Little”.) The Brads liked each other so much, for a while they thought they were brothers.

So it was early in April and our Brad’s birthday rolled around. We sent out invitations, and the morning of the party–which was going to be a cake, ice cream and games–rolled around and I heard from one invitee’s mom after the other–“We can’t come, we’re going to be out of town.”

–“We can’t come, our kids throwing up . . . ”

–“We can’t come, we have an appointment.”

Even his little female buddy had to be out-of-town and just came by as they left to bring him a gift.

I was heart-broken. Here my sweet little boy was turning four and he was going to have only one guest at his party. At least his best buddy would be there, but it still hurt.

So, like any self-respecting Spess Girl, I called Mama. I never was much of a whiner, but when something that sad happens, what else can you do?

Mom was as upset about it as I was. “What time’s the party?”

Surprised by the question, I told her. Then she said something that will always live in my heart. “See you in a little bit.”

It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning (say that five times fast) in early April. Everyone in the world has something planned for that kind of day, and I’m sure Mama did, too, but she didn’t hesitate. She just called all her C-Town kids and told them to dress her grandchildren. She went to the drugstore, bought several gifts and had them wrapped. Then she picked up every grandchild she had in C-Town and headed for Pryor Creek, an hour and a half away.

When they came in the door, I nearly cried. Brad had his best friends in the world surrounding him (cousins are friends, too, in our family) and his best buddy, Little Brad. He opened one present after another. Lincoln logs, pickup sticks, puzzles, Tinker Toys–all the great kids’ toys.

And he had Grandmommie with him–the best present of all.

Someday, when I have grandchildren, and I keep praying that I will (hinting here, kids!) I hope I can be at least half as great a grandmommie as my mama was. I had a wonderful example, and I plan to give it my best shot.

So–what’s your favorite kind of party for kids? (Yours, your kids or grandkids.) Expensive and glorious or cake, ice cream and home? I’m really curious to know.