Benjamin’s birthday is coming up. While my other two children have normal birthday celebrations that involve things like gymnastics places or going to a play with a friend, Benjamin’s birthday always seems to involve something like a Greek mythology birthday cake complete with a Temple of Zeus constructed out of marshmallows and white chocolate or a six-foot hoagie.
That’s just the kind of kid he is. As his teacher recently said of him, Benjamin likes to go big or go home. (This was said in response to the giant diorama of a tarantula’s habitat the child spent every waking minute constructing last week.) I should have known I was in trouble the year Ben was three when he declared he wanted to be a rain cloud for Halloween. Or maybe the year he was a tornado. Or this past Purim when we had to go to our local thrift store—Savers—and buy all the tiny women’s clothes we could find in leopard print so he could sew himself a leopard costume. And then there was the tarantula costume he made himself for his DI tournament. You can’t buy any of these costumes premade. No one sells a freaking tornado costume; you have to make it yourself.
So, when I offered to throw him a Harry Potter birthday party, I probably should have known what I was signing up for.
It started with a few simple ideas, like painting bricks on a sheet and hanging it in the doorway so the children can come in through the barrier to Platform 9 ¾ and making a sign modeled on the M*A*S*H sign pointing towards Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and Privet Drive, among others. Hell, I’m lying. It never was going to be simple. From the moment I said, “We can make a snitch piñata,” I was pretty much screwed. Said piñata is now filled with owls, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, and flobberworms. Do you know how time consuming making a piñata is? First, we had to make the round part, which had to dry before we decided it needed to be thicker. Then, we had to stuff it, patch the hole, and wait for that to dry. Then there was priming and painting it, plus figuring out how the hell to attach the wings, which are made out of pipe cleaners and gold tissue. All of which is designed to be smashed to pieces.
Each of my children gets ONE birthday party that involves a piñata. New house rule.
This party has involved numerous trips to Michael’s, a store I usually avoid at all costs and several to Savers, the only store I hate more than Michael’s. On my last expedition to Savers, I scored a long green velvet dress in my size, which is pretty damned awesome. I spent Saturday turning a red velvet dress into robes for Zachary, who ended up looking so much like Lockhart we decided he’d play that role. I should have known I had crossed a line no one should ever cross when Lilah said, “I should wait to cut my hair so I look more like Ginny.” Or maybe when I told my husband to stop trimming his beard and postpone his haircut so he would more closely resemble Hagrid.
We even sent paper invitations, modeled after Harry’s Hogwarts letter, of course. With a return address of 12 Grimmauld Place. One particularly clever family wrote their RSVP on a paper owl they made and sent in the mail.
But, I think maybe I finally passed the point at which I should be committed to St. Mungo’s today, when I spent more time than I want to admit hot gluing little tiny bits of greenery onto tiny plastic baby heads so we can insert them into edible dirt in miniature terracotta pots that I will be personalizing with the guests’ names.
Yes, people, today I made mandrakes.
The first step is admitting I have a problem.