When my daughter, Julia, turned one on a rainy night in April, her grandfather bought her a chocolate cupcake from the A&P, which she dutifully mashed into her forehead as I sang "Happy Birthday to You" and her grandmother stood by with a soapy washcloth.
My friend Annie suggested this might just be the most pathetic affair she'd ever heard of, and asked what I intended to someday tell my little girl about her first party. "I will tell her that I rented a farm with ponies and a Ferris wheel and a magician and a rainbow and fireworks and 67 ballerinas. I will tell her that Springsteen sang and Elmo juggled. And I will tell her that the world was in such fabulous shape, President Gore decided he could afford to take the day off and help blow out the candle on her strawberry-pink butter-cream layer cake." Annie rolled her eyes.
Julia's second birthday was spent in bed with a stomach virus, but eventually I will show her clips from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and point out how wonderful it was to have thousands of well-wishers lining the streets to celebrate her entry into the terrible twos.
My plan was to keep this up until she hit her mid-40s, but by last spring, with Jules on the verge of becoming a 3-year-old, I knew the jig was up. She had begun to question how I balance the demands of being an ice-skating superstar with my rigorous schedule as the Northeast's only true fairy princess. She was also getting invited to more and more birthday parties. She'd embraced half a dozen Barney clones, dined on politically correct tofu nuggets, and received goody bags filled with bubble wands and unicorn stickers.
There was no getting around it—I'd have to throw a party.