My Granddaughter’s Drive-Thru Birthday Was As Fun As It Gets In The COVID Era


She waited five years and 364 days but, on Saturday, it finally arrived — my granddaughter Tess’s sixth birthday.

She was up at 6 a.m., dressed in what she considered her “best outfit” (a creative mash-up of four different outfits), and at the side of her mother’s bed.

“Did you mean to hide these?” she asked.

She was holding a bunch of golden eggs, spray-painted the night before and now, hopefully, dry.

Her mother opened one eye. “What? Oh. Well, no, Tess. We’re not hiding them, but we are using them for a game.”

“Can I help set it up?”

“Uh, well, yeah. Sure.”

Jen climbed reluctantly out of bed, groping for the to-do list on the nightstand. It was extensive.

Tess’s party started at 3 p.m., but she and her brother were ready by 7 a.m. I got there at noon, and there was still plenty to do. Jen had a map in her hand of the eight “stations” set up along her circle drive where COVID-cautious families could play games from their cars. There were tablecloths to be spread out, balloons to be inflated and equipment to be gathered. Sanitizer and wipes were at each station.

Our stress levels were already up, but Tess’s brother felt it necessary to ride up and down the driveway on his bike, hollering out the remaining time at intervals… as in, “Only 30 minutes to go!”

My job was to clean all the game pieces before the next car arrived at my station and signal the driver when it was time to approach. It was 93 degrees outside, and I was dressed like Willie Wonka in a black velvet top hat, sweating bullets, but a grandma does what a grandma has to do. It’s not like Tess was going to turn six every day.

Birthday parties where elementary school kids run wild, all hopped up on candy and soda until they top it off with sugary cake — that’s what I’m used to. But it’s just not possible right now. The whole idea of a drive-by birthday made me sad, but I had to give my daughter props for making the best of the situation. And Tess was happy to just be able to see her friends “in the flesh.”

The stations were fun. 1) you got your goodie bag, 2) you tossed giant wrapped candies (toilet paper tubes) through an open mouth, 3) you threw darts at purple balloons (“grapes”), 4) you chose a golden egg from a duck pond and hoped it said “winner” inside (it did; they all  did), 5) you scored a root beer from the ice bucket (no special skills required) and 6) your parents took your photo as you posed in front of a tree decorated with giant fake candies. If you brought a donation for the animal shelter, you placed it on Table A; if you brought a present for Tess, you placed it on Table B.

Cars were lined up down the street. Turned out we hadn’t counted on people driving through twice. So, it was a successful party, considering.

Next year, however, I want to see kids running wild, all hopped up on candy and soda until they top it off with sugary cake. Is that too much to ask?

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