BUDGET-BUSTING BLOWOUTS

Which party now causes the most angst in this country? Is it the Democratic or Republican Party? What about the Communist Party? No, it’s the kid’s birthday party.

What used to be a simple funfest in a livingroom or backyard has become an expensive production requiring professional managers and the rental of bowling alleys, waterslide parks and , who knows, maybe even Yankee Stadium when the team is on the road.

Clowns, magicians, jugglers and balloon twisters are the typical jolly staff members. Liveguards and medics are on hand for the more athletic extravaganzas. The simplest 10-kid celebration with only a few tame games, cupcakes, temporary tattoos and a time limit can cost Dad a a week’s pay. And what about that time limit? Do the party boy and his guests get tossed out into the parking lot when the Chief Clown shouts “Time!” into his bejeweled bullhorn?

In the old days, Mom just baked a cake and provided enough candy and ice cream for the average young guest to get an upset stomach.

I remember one party in my youth when we played the old favorite “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”. One at a time we were given a paper tail with a thumbtack, blindfolded, spun around, and sent off to attach the tail to a donkey picture on the wall. The closest hit to the donkey’s rump brought on a prize, maybe a shiny kazoo or a kewpie doll. The losers got to laugh at the widespread array of donkey tails tacked to the walls and furniture. I remember four-year old Henry had to be rescued that day when he almost had a tail tacked to his rompers.

Later, Dad was the DJ, running the Victrola for the “Musical Chairs” game where eight kids marched to a Bing Crosby song around seven chairs. When Dad lifted the needle, they rushed to be seated leaving one marcher stranded or maybe sitting on someone’s lap. If it was a girl on a boy’s lap, it was even more fun.

When it got down to two marchers and one chair, it could get rough, especially with two boys. There was, after all, a neato kazoo at stake.

I was “it” for the “Blind Man’s Bluff” game. Blindfolded and spun around again, but without a tail or thumbtack, I had to roam the room, shout “Freeze!” to stop everyone in their tracks, grab an arm and, hopefully, I.D. the captive who would be the next Blind Bluffer if I was right.

Little Henry wasn’t an available target. He’d had enough and was hiding under the sofa, poor kid. By the time he was ten, Henry was an expert Pin the Tail on the Donkey player and a virtuoso on the kazoo.

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