About the only thing I like less than giving parties is going to them. Suffice it to say that I am still digging out from the emotional carnage that was Jason Eisner's bar mitzvah. Still, we do things for our children that we wouldn't do for anyone else on earth (except possibly Clive Owen, but that's a whole other column). I once hokey pokeyed 54 times in a single afternoon because—believe me—when you hit on something that distracts a baby from teething pain, you're more than happy to put your left foot in, take your left foot out, put your left foot in, and shake it all about.

But I digress. You're probably wondering how the social event of the season finally turned out, whether the kids liked the pizza bagels and the mothers liked the crudités, if everyone had a maraca to shake, a hand to hold, a balloon to pop. If I actually managed to find a bit of bliss, a shot of redemption, a few moments of grace in seeing my daughter serenaded by all the people she loves. Can a phobic party-giver wrestle her neuroses to Moon Soup's padded floor mat and survive.

Well, in a perfect world, I'd be able to say that I not only survived, I turned out to be the hostess with the mostess and a good time was had by all. But—on the off chance that you hadn't noticed—this is not a perfect world, so I'll tell you the truth: One kid threw up, two kids cried, Julia started asking if we could go home about 40 minutes before it was over, my parents started asking if they could go home about 40 minutes after it started, I barked at Johannes (the only thing that kept him from divorcing me during this ordeal is the fact that he'd first have to marry me), and the phrase "Please, God, let this stuff I just stepped in turn out to be apple juice" was evoked several times over the course of two and a half hours. But according to my friend Jan, who has three kids and knows virtually everything I don't, in toddler circles this constitutes a rollicking success.

So, my darling daughter, when you grow up I will tell you that your third birthday party was fantastic—because for the most part it really was. But I might also mention that it's a very fine thread that sutures us to our dreams. My dream for you will always be 67 ballerinas, but I'm afraid reality is an overwhelmed mother and an old Jewish couple from Detroit picking cupcake out of your hair on a rainy night in April. The truth is, Springsteen was booked and my skating did not take six gold medals at the Helsinki Olympics. But here's one more truth: For a couple of seconds there, my mom and dad and you and me were the finest family in the world. We shimmered with closeness, we shut our eyes, we made a wish, and we blew those candles out.


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