At Skippy’s Themed Big Birthday Bash, I Was Completely Lost


Last Saturday was the Little Guy’s birthday. He is now the Big Guy, age 9. Fourth grade. Remember fourth grade? You knew everything then. It wasn’t until college that you realized how little you actually knew. And, once you’re a grandparent, you realize you know nothing at all.

At least that’s how I felt at Skippy’s birthday party. He had chosen an air/water/earth/fire theme so, being a child of the Age of Aquarius, I felt pretty confident going in to help.

No. The Age of Aquarius is dead. We are now in the Age of Avatar, where there are air benders, water benders, earth benders and fire benders. Huh?

To make things still more confusing for me, Skippy was Avatar Aang, the only known bridge between the physical and spirit worlds, the only one who can master all four elements to bring balance to the land. Well, he brought balance to the land all right. All the kids were having a ball, no matter which way they were bending.

I was mostly concerned that my adorable little grandson had shaved his head, painted a bright blue arrow from the middle of his forehead to the nape of his neck, and was wearing a nylon costume sure to kill him in the 90 degree heat of the day. Not my business, so I stayed out of it.

My business consisted of putting pudding topped with cotton candy (air), blueberries (water), strawberries (earth) and carrot/orange pepper sticks (fire) into tiny little plastic cups with not enough spoons to go around. That was Job One.

Job Two was frosting dozens of cupcakes with light blue, dark blue, orange or chocolate frosting; adding sprinkles; then making sure I got the correct paper character inserted into the top of the correct cupcake.

Critical observer: “Momo doesn’t go onto the chocolate cupcake! The chocolate cupcake is for earth benders!”

Harried grandma: “What’s a Momo?”

(Answer: Aang’s pet lemur. Ohhhhhh. Well, I don’t have a cupcake for that.)

I missed the first hour of the party getting the snacks ready, and it would’ve taken two, but grandpa was helping. We then went outside to sit in the shade and gratefully sip from a tiny little juice box.

My daughter had carefully researched this party and come up blank as far as Avatar games go, so she had the kids make paper airplanes (air), aim for targets with squirt guns (water) and compete to build the highest sand tower (earth). The grand finale — and the game most likely to require intervention by paramedics — consisted of handing each child a lit candle so theirs could be the first team to build and keep a fire going in an aluminum pie plate for five minutes. I noticed that half the parents kept a skeptical eye on this activity, while the other half scurried around the yard looking for twigs, dry leaves and abandoned paper airplanes that their little fire benders could use for fuel.

Eventually, I brought out the cupcakes. “Happy Birthday” was sung. The presents were opened. My blue-arrowed grandchild changed into a swimsuit, and the benders attacked the pool. I finally understood what was going on — swimming.

As the first birthday party of the school year, Avatar Aang had set the bar pretty high.