I went to a birthday party for a 4-year-old boy last weekend.
In the middle of a frozen lake.
Like so many American fathers, I’ve been to my share of children’s surburban parties at the bowling alley, the ice rink, the roller rink, the movie theater, Chuck E. Cheese, etc.
Sure, they’re fun–the kids run around and yell, the overly solicitous parents try to maintain control, the food on paper plates is set out at just the right time to calm the youngsters, everyone gets a party favor, at least one child pitches a fit, the cake (usually chocolate) draws oohs and aahs and then gets spilled on the floor, everybody sings “Happy Birthday”, a pile of presents is opened and tossed aside, and then everybody, much to the relief of the host parents, is escorted out the door, usually with one more child pitching a fit.
Yeah, I’ve been to those.
But this recent party was much different. First, it was 15 degrees outside, with a mild, shifting breeze sweeping across the lake. Second, the centerpiece of the party was a bonfire which the birthday boy and his grandfather had started in the middle of the frozen lake. Grandpa jokingly mentioned that when the fire broke through the ice, then it was time to go home.
It never did break through, and we piled the wood on for three hours.
And during that three hours, the birthday boy rolled around on the snow and ice, made a snowman and snow angels, ate a half of a hot dog which had been roasted over the fire, then ate a cupcake (not a full cake!), and listened to about ten of us sing “Happy Birthday” to him.
Red-cheeked, bundled up, and smiling, he never once complained about the cold.
When the sun finally sank lower in the sky and shadows started falling, he and Grandma boarded a snowmobile and headed back to the house. The bonfire was extinguished.
A final comment from one of those who attended the party: “You know what? We never had any presents!”
You know what? It didn’t matter. The birthday boy didn’t need any. He had the best birthday party–UP-style–a child could ever wish for.