The experience begins with a human chute fashioned just like a chute would be on a cattle ranch. In fact, with the Rural King down the street, it isn’t hard to imagine that this is the exact model you would find ushering cows into their corral. Ahead of you are a series of blinking lights. Vegas? No, there is no chance of winning it big here. On the sides are large, soft structures that seem to be sucking kids into them only to spit them back out. They flop and bounce until they recover at the bottom. Then they are sucked right back up again. The sights resemble something you might find in an ’80s sci-fi movie. The feeling isn’t far off either.
I snap back to reality. Back on my couch and back to the conversation.
“Just because your friends had their parties there doesn’t mean that you have to. Parties at home can be just as fun.”
“No, Mom. My party will be at Jump-n-Joeys.”
An alien abduction would have been welcomed. In fact, if they could replace me with a robot mom until mid-September when this birthday stuff was behind us, I would forever be indebted to their foreign race. Adding insult to injury, Maddie quickly joins in, jumping up and down as if she were already on those spastic inflatables. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!”
“And, we will invite all of my friends’ babies, too,” Riley added, pointedly. Sweet girl. She has been so distraught by her sister’s lack of invitation to the birthday parties she was invited to this year that she was determined to right the injustice at her own party. Moved by pride, or insanity, I agreed. Jump-n-Joeys for her fifth birthday party it is.
A typical trip to Jump-n-Joeys is overwhelming. What then will a trip with twelve-plus five-year-olds and their siblings be like? When I let my mom know about the party, she paraphrased how my dad would feel about it: A fate worse than death. Yes, that seems about right. Lesley suggested that we could buy glowing necklaces for the kids so that we don’t lose them. Lose them? Lord help me that’s a real possibility.
Amidst all of my nerves, Riley couldn’t be more excited. She is thrilled to host her mermaid party among the sea of inflatables. I was even able to get her to help with four of the birthday invitations — three more than I had originally anticipated. She helped pick out the party favors, and she runs down a list of who will be coming most mornings. Of course, at this point, the invitations had not been handed out and no RSVPs received. She modifies the list each morning, as well. Sometimes boys will be invited, sometimes she insists they would ruin the party. I pray she holds on to this attitude through her teenage years.
A room reserved and invitations bought, I am committed to the party. In compromise, we will still have our small family party the night before. I look forward to the peaceful comfort of this familiar mode of celebrating a birth. Riley looks forward to the celebration with friends while being sucked in and spit out of inflatables. It is her day of birth and as any mother would be, I’m happy she’s happy. Still, an alien abduction right around the beginning of September wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.