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A magical birthday party


Read below for Anuja’s April 2014 column in the Ann. The Ann is the informative, critical, and inspiring magazine distributed monthly in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and annarbor.com.  



I feel inspired/pressured to create cherished birthday celebrations for my children, but I don’t want to go too far, like the mom who cleverly coordinates cutlery with the cake, nor not far enough, like the mom who’s too busy with her own occasions to rejoice without really reflecting.



So trying to figure out what to do with 20-or-so boys at my son’s ninth birthday party in the vortex of a wild winter was worrisome.



I had confidently convinced my son and his father that our house was the best venue, as compared to the “easier sellout spaces” of past parties, from laser tag to Liberty, even though they were laughter-filled and loved by the kids.



I promised my husband this wouldn’t be a repeat of the seventh birthday party when a light saber-wielding guest accidentally whacked our prized framed sports memorabilia, shattering glass at the feet of frightened friends. The repair costs alone could have covered a Chuck E. Cheese party that didn’t require cleanup.



I pledged to protect our cats from being chased by children, and to detain all drenched footwear at the foyer.



“We’ll have them play games in the yard and serve snacks in the garage!” was my solution. That way, they’d be physically active and our home would be safe. My biggest fear was our yard, which can easily entertain four kids and a sprinkler in August, is too small for five times that many friends who would freeze if we forced them to stay outside for too long in February.



My son suggested that we give him Alaskan Malamute puppies for his birthday, which would solve the party problem — the kids could have an Iditarod race in our yard. He doesn’t know it but I fleetingly considered it.



When I learned of the existence of a real-life University of Michigan Quidditch team willing to visit the homes of local muggles and lead a wizard’s party, I could feel tingles. My son has read “Sorcerer’s Stone” more times than his age and, ignoring my censorship, was reading “No. 7” already, reciting passages by heart. Nothing could top having these young, fun role models lead the charge for our birthday party.



It felt like the warmest day in weeks — cloudy and 30 degrees. The team arrived early to set up and sip homemade butterbeer my dad concocted at his grandson’s request. Their “sorting hat” put the kids into teams without hurt feelings for anyone, the silly student “snitch” donned shorts in the snow with kids squealing with delight in the fresh air, and a former camp counselor turned teammate led the lads in G-rated games that kept them smiling and sitting in one place when we moved indoors.



When the team issued a final “lumos” spell, handing each guest one beautiful team-made wand, it brightened my bleak outlook about having to hand out plastic goodie bags stuffed with more plastic that no one knows what to do with.



This constellation of miracles made for a potion-packed party; I swear I could see sparkles in the snow.