Caroline’s birthday was February 28th. She has known she would have a Sound of Music Birthday Party since Christmas. She created a folder, labeled “Caroline’s 7th Birthday Folder”—she brainstormed party ideas with both her mom and dad. Plans were solidified six weeks before the big day.
Caroline created her own invitations: “I am 6 going on 7, so please come to my birthday party.” They were green—the color of the hills—and so too was the intended color of her cupcakes: they were to have musical notes on top. She was going to have the cake part be chocolate since the ground is brown beneath the grass, but her love of vanilla cake and poetic license prevailed.
Goodie Bags: Brown paper packages tied up with string. In them: a Sound of Music Soundtrack cd, a kazoo (meant to represent Captain von Trapp’s whistle), Swiss chocolate, and Pez (researched by her dad as an Austrian-originated candy).
Caroline made one game—Pin Maria on the Hill. Refreshments: popcorn, grapes, and juice boxes. Besides that, the plan was to watch the movie.
At first we were to invite only five friends. There are seven von Trapp kids, so five friends plus Lexi and Caroline would have completed the family. The list increased a bit until she settled on eleven total. I thought it was still a manageable number; that is, if the kids would, in fact, all be sitting around watching the movie.
Sound of Music is a three hour movie. Parents dropping kids off looked at me with pitying and doubtful expressions when I said they could return four hours later. Last minute, though, I took down their cell phone numbers….just in case.
When Caroline decided on the Sound of Music and not, let’s say, I don’t know, any other movie ever made, Dave and I knew we might be in trouble. The Sound of Music: long conversations, slow melodies, sweeping vistas. Three girls got up to stretch during the opening credits. One suggested an all-out game of tag in the basement as alternate activity—and Maria hadn’t even made clothes out of curtains yet. The dangling carrot of “Cupcakes at Intermission” meant nothing to six-year-olds who don’t know what “intermission” means.
It went well—like Animal House. Mini-Blutos there on the couch: “See if you can guess what I am now,” popcorn smashed and cascading from their mini-cheeks to our one oriental rug.
I was calling cell phone numbers as “So Long, Farewell” sweetly and earnestly sang for attention in the background. By then, though, not even Gretl’s pudgy cheeks could make the slightest emotional impact.
Caroline said that night as we were lying down after prayers that this was not the party she had pictured it would be, and I nodded knowingly, thinking of all the times our “vision” does not jibe with what becomes our “reality.” It was a life lesson I thought I’d like to keep to myself a while longer. So I told her I thought the party went well, that her friends had fun and she seemed to also. She agreed.
After a short silence she said, “But next year, I’d like to go bowling.”