When I was growing up, we didn’t have birthday parties. Maybe it wasn’t the thing to do back then. But I still have fond birthday memories. My German mom would wake me up with a birthday greeting: “Sylvchen, Hertlichen Gluckwunch Zum Geburtstag!” and a kiss and a hug. I’d wear my favorite spring dress to school. And it was all about the food. My mom was a good cook and excellent baker, and I would get to have whatever I wanted. My consistent order was Rouladen with red cabbage and dumplings and Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte for dessert.
Fast forward nearly half a century, I’m married and blessed with a 13-year-old son, Sebastian. He has a summer birthday, and we have a backyard pool, so our standard operating procedure is to invite a few of his friends over for a pool party and let the birthday boy choose the menu.
For the most part, the weather has been perfect on his special day. But there was one year…
Sebastian was turning 11 and had seven or eight of his friends over for the birthday pool party. The weather was supposed to cooperate (there was only a 20 percent chance of precipitation). No worries. I ordered the food and cake. My husband who usually does the cooking and grilling had to go to work. No problem. I got this.
The kids were all playing in the pool on rafts with squirt toys when I heard thunder. “Everyone out of the pool,” I ordered. “But mom, it’s not even raining,” my son replied. Despite the protests, I managed to get everyone into the house, wet bathing suits and all.
All of a sudden, we were in the middle of a loud, scary storm. I told the boys to go to the basement and play video games. A couple moms called to ask if they should pick up their sons, but I said it was fine and I would come up with a Plan B. But what?
So I thought back to what we used to do as kids when it rained in the summer. And that’s when it hit me: We played outside. I listened for thunder but could only hear the steady downpour of rain. I called the boys upstairs and announced that we were going to walk to the park and play kick ball. “But it’s still raining!” they replied. “Exactly. Come on, it’s going to be fun!” I said, hoping it’d be true.
We grabbed a kick ball from the garage and made the three block trek to the park. I hoped there was no one else as crazy as us playing ball in the middle of a down pour. Sure enough, the park was completely deserted. It was perfect.
Teams were set, I was drafted as full-time pitcher, and the game was on. Sebastian was the first to figure out the fun of playing in the mud (he had practice). He purposely slid to home plate and was completely covered in mud as he got up laughing. The boys soon found out that trying to avoid the puddles was pointless. The field was nothing but mud and puddles. They were not only going to get dirty, they were going to get filthy, head to toe!
Before I knew it, the time had come for us to start walking home. It was still raining, but no one seemed to mind. A couple of the parents had driven to the park (I had texted them earlier about Plan B), to pick up their sons, but the boys wanted to all stay together, walking and talking about the game. They were dirty, muddy, and best of all, happy!
Years later, that party is still my son’s all-time favorite. Just as I reflect fondly on my pretty dress and my mom’s German cooking, Sebastian thinks back to the fun of playing muddy kickball with his friends in the rain. Sometimes the simple, old-fashioned moments in life really make for the best memories.
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Washington FAMILY Magazine