I have not one, not two, but three teenagers crawling about under my dining room table. Had I not reached a Great Age, with the dodgy joints accompanying it, I might well have been Down Under with them, issuing pointless
instructions and generally getting in the way.
The three teens (not to be mistaken for the Three Tenors, though they can all warble beautifully) are attempting
to locate the catches which will unlock the table, allowing it to be extended so accommodating our party more comfortably. They need to find the catches, work out how to operate them, extend the table, then decorate it with my beautiful Thanksgiving table
runner and some glittery “Happy Birthday” confetti. The latter was left over from somebody’s 40th birthday so all the sparkly “40” confetti needs to be removed by hand as part of Quality Control. All this must be achieved
before the doorbell rings to herald the arrival of the Birthday Girl and her Rampaging Rascals when Team Baldwin (for it is they) and the beautiful Zoë must hide in the back garden ready to jump through the patio doors carolling “Surprise! Surprise!”
I, as hostess of this Auspicious Occasion, am extremely excited.
Unfortunately I miss the actual surprise because Tala, elder of the Twinkles by one important
minute, announces almost before she is inside the front door that she needs a wee. The pair of us are therefore taken up with this vitally important business, followed by lengthy washing of hands (I am not sure if this is for hygienic reasons or because Tala
likes turning on the taps and squirting soap from the dispenser) at the precise moment when the surprise element bursts through the patio doors like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the end of one of my favourite films.
Yes, the Middle of the Darling Daughters is celebrating her 50th birthday and I am determined this red letter anniversary should be marked in appropriate style for one who gives so much of herself
to others, including her father and me. It is one of the characteristics I loved most about my dear Dad - his ability to make any and every day special - and I always like to hope that a little bit of his magic has rubbed off on me. I do try - as Mr B likes
to point out, I am, indeed, very trying.
We decide, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I, that we will turn things on their head by having the birthday
cake, presents and prosecco early on, rather than at the end of the afternoon when we might have to rush proceedings, given that we are working to a bit of a deadline by which time everyone needs to leave. It works a treat, though I say so myself as shouldn’t.
My original plan was to take The Rampaging Rascals into the kitchen on a secret mission to decorate their mother’s cake, baked the evening before by Yours Truly, but
I am dazzled by a sudden brainwave - why should the Birthday Girl miss out on all the fun? So the cake is brought out with all due ceremony, along with three small bowls full of various sweets, and placed on the small table where the Trio eat and play - and
the Ace Cake Decorators set to work. Their method owes less to Careful Placement and more to Throw All The Sweets On The Cake And Hope They Stick. Their mother says it is quite the very best birthday cake she had ever had.
We sing Happy Birthday and the Trio blow out the candles quickly before their mother has a chance to draw breath. We toast the Birthday Girl with prosecco and the littl’uns “help”
her open her cards and presents. Then we all take off for the park where we adults reckon that the ratio of Teens to Tots should work in our favour. When we are all, with the obvious exception of the Rampaging Rascals, completely worn out we return home where
we heat up the curry I prepared yesterday and sit down for a Birthday Meal.
You may be thinking it’s not the most earth-shatteringly original of birthday
celebrations. Perhaps you needed to be here? Though it might have been a bit crowded and I am not sure either the cake or the curry would have stretched that far…
The Surprise Party leave first - Hazel has to get back to Chiswick where she is studying at Arts Ed, Jack and Zoë both have early starts the following day to travel back to York and Southampton Universities respectively. Yes, they all crawl back
under the table to put it back for me before they leave.
Then it’s the turn of the Birthday Party to say goodbye, once the Trio are all changed into their
pyjamas. Young Faris stands in front of me to give me “seven kisses” - one on my forehead, one on my nose, one on my chin, a tickly one each side of my neck, one on each cheek. It’s the sweetest of farewells.
Some time later, my daughter messages me to say she is home, safe and sound: “Thank you for everything, my lovely mum,” she writes, “I loved every single minute..” and she finishes
with “Seven kisses..”
Seven kisses - I am blessed, indeed.