The Youngest of the Darling Daughters had decided not to specify any particular dress code for the Family Party to celebrate Our Jack's 18th birthday.
As a result, the
Birthday Boy wore jeans and tee-shirt; his Proud Mamma a sparkly top; the Twinkles wore the boleros I knitted for their birthday last week; the (Not So Little) Welsh Boys sported their Christmas jumpers. Oh, yes, and the Duracell Bunny dressed as a Dalmatian
puppy. It was that kind of a party...
Young Faris was delighted to find that he had a puppy for a cousin. A lot of chasing about the hall and rolling on the floor ensued. There are few things more special
in life than having all four of your children and all of your Tremendous Ten grandchildren together in one place for a One Momentous Occasion.
You will be delighted to hear that all eleven Ready, Jelly, Gos
arrived in one piece, with not a single sticky spillage in my car boot. The Y of the DDs forecast that her son would groan when he saw them but, no, she had misjudged him: he was determined that he would be the very first to tuck in. It's Tradition, after
My contribution paled into insignificance compared with the efforts of my daughter in masterminding not one, but two, parties for her first-born. The young party-goers attending both parties looked
remarkably bright and bushy-tailed when Mr B and I (plus jellies, scones, birthday banners and balloon) turned up and I am not sure how we would have set up the hall in readiness for Party Number Two without their help.
This was a Relaxed Gathering. No frenzied partying (I suspect there was plenty of that the previous night but, being of a Great Age, I was not invited), rather a chance for close family to come together to share food and chat about all that's going
on in our busy lives. The littl'uns - plus a couple of Big Kids - decorated gingerbread Christmas trees. The tiniest ones gazed in wonderment and tried to catch the bubbles floating from the bubble machine. The (Not So Little) Welsh Boys proudly gave Mr B
and I the Christmas cards they had designed and had printed at school. "I hope you have a lovely Christmas from Samuel Ball" my grandson had written with that quaint formality that nine year olds often adopt.
were all encouraged to decorate our faces with cardboard hats, beards, specs and moustaches and have our photos taken peering from a giant cardboard frame. The Birthday Boy was required to be in every photograph so as to provide everyone present with an appropriate
souvenir of the occasion. He submitted with charm and good grace.
The classy cake made by the Y of the DDs' own fair hand was lit with eighteen candles, and we all sang Happy Birthday while the Middle of the
Darling Daughters endeavoured to prevent Young Faris from blowing out the candles. Jack's Dad, in a short, heart-felt speech, told us all how proud he was of the amazing young man his son had become and invited us to lift our glasses in a toast. I came over
all misty-eyed. Well, what else did you expect?
On a large screen at one end of the hall, a pictorial presentation of memories from the last eighteen years. Six hundred photographs in all, each one a memory-
tugger on the heart-strings. Jack as a new-born, on his first days at nursery, at primary school, at the local comprehensive. Photos with his sister, his cousins, his aunts and uncle, his Grandma and Grandpa, with Mr B and me. "Look! It's you!" we kept exclaiming,
the better to ensure that nobody missed the moment when their photo with Jack flashed up on screen.
My over-riding impression was of just so many special times - days at the seaside, scooting along the prom
(prom, prom); Jack standing underneath numerous birthday banners counting the years ("Jack is Nine", "Jack is Fifteen") and blowing out the candles on countless cakes. Here he is in our back garden, aged about eighteen months, where he had carefully lined
up all the flower pots. Here he is at seven years old, the proudest of Best Men at his parents' wedding. Here he is treading the boards in many a musical theatre production, always the consummate professional with a keen sense of comic timing and a voice to
make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
I reflect on how very lucky I am that my daughter and son-in-law have been unfailingly generous including me so completely in the Life and Times of the Baldwin
Family. As a result, there are no surprises for me in the presentation of Jack's life so far, played out on the large screen - only the sweetest of happy memories.
Because I Was There.