It was on the Alberta falls ride with Hannah, my newly crowned nine year old, when I stopped apologizing for what seemed like such an extravagant birthday gift. My brother had summed it up neatly, “What did you do for your ninth birthday?” Three plus decades later, I have no idea. And that was his point. Let us clarify, we have parents that live a lean lifestyle. Frugal would be the word. Not bad by any means, just conservative with their money. And actually, this taught most of my siblings and me really great life lessons. This means traveling solo with just one parent for a birthday was never an option. Choosing the flavor of the box cake was.
My tangos with birthday parties for my children have always been high anxiety for me, and by choice, a bit limited. Because of being frugal by nature, I think goodie bags are a joke and the notion of spending weeks celebrating, extravagant. My girl’s sixth birthday was the kicker, when one little guest declared she was bored. Party is over. From then on, my three kids got to pick their best buddies and choose a simple destination to celebrate. One kid chose to ride the Portland Tram, one kid a pizza lunch and on. Easy, simple, contained.
My oldest daughter’s ninth birthday came amongst some major stress in our lives. My husband had gone back to work in sales at the tune of seventy hours a week. For the first time I was a mother of three, and essentially on my own. At the age of eight, she became my right hand man. She and I desperately needed to connect as mother and daughter, not commander and the commandeered. So for her ninth birthday, we flew standby (courtesy of a friend who worked for Alaska Air), to San Diego and stayed with family for the weekend. It was perfect.
Fast forward almost three years. Stress is greatly reduced and my friend no longer flies for Alaska. Flights are expensive and how do I justify this? Frugal upbringing. After literally months of scouring packages, Great Wolf Lodge became a logical option. But still, soo extravagant for a ninth birthday. Until two-thirds of the way down Alberta Falls, just her and I, squealing with delight. Her glee, with wet, cold water splashing as we flew down the tube broke a tightly held conviction. The speed and laughter enveloped me, and the extravagant, how do you justify this, voice evaporated. Just us, just happy, celebrating a beautiful, safe birth nine years later. Could I ask for a better memory?
Jennifer Fisher serves as the Secretary of NACEF, and works at Legacy Health and OHSU as a Childbirth Educator. She is currently on the path to midwifery, and has a habit of running various relays and races to maintain her balance.