Shannon Kidd

Two things readers should have figured out by now is that I have no sense of direction and my memory for faces and simple instructions isn’t much better. Though I make no secret of these inabilities, friends continue to invite me to outdoor parties in large, heavily populated parks. Luckily, today’s toddler birthday is being celebrated at Irving Park. The surrounding area is notably easier to navigate and make frequent U-turns in than the neighborhoods surrounding other Portland parks. I just need to look for clues: white people, balloons, and children. Somehow, I only crash one other party before reaching my goal.

Food is abundant to the point of approaching excess and includes tofu musubi, pickles, fresh berries, rainbow slaw, ambrosia salad, tortilla chips, and popcorn. I contribute fruit (to the joy of the children) and cured meats (to the silent disgust of the vegans). Beverages are provided in the form of beer, wine, and sparkling water as, without this dynamic trio of thirst quenchers, one cannot claim to host a party.

The other guests are every bit as eclectic as they are upwardly mobile. Our shady little corner of the park resembles a Pottery Barn catalog showcasing diversity. Every archetype one might hope to see at a modern child’s fourth birthday are here, including that one dude who doesn’t seem to belong. I mean, he definitely doesn’t have kids or marriage prospects, and is unlikely to have ever learned how to tie a tie (for work, special occasions, or casual pretense).

Maybe he’s related to the guest of honor, or perhaps he’s a friend of the family. Maybe he’s also writing a party column.

Is he my lone competitor? The only other imbecile blessed with a brilliant plan to dominate the world with the most eloquent of irreverent prose? What if he’s onto me and there can be only one?

Plotting and scheming his demise is put on hold as the party girl proclaims “doodoo” as the word of the day, and the only word she will speak for the remainder of the party. Rather than foster an irrational grudge against someone I’ve only just met in passing, I decide to distract myself with a game of Frisbee, completely forgetting that of all the unique abilities possessed by a group of four-year-olds, hand-eye coordination isn’t one of them. Still, one child after another demands to join the fray.

Is this kid even part of our party? I know for a fact that kid isn’t. Where are the parents? Is this child covered in dirt, chocolate, or their own feces? Or perhaps another child’s feces? I throw the Frisbee and try not to think about it.

“It’s time to cut the cake!”

Lest we break from tradition, we each sing a different rendition of the birthday song, resulting in a cacophony of childhood patronization, and concluding with a Bronx cheer to the extinguish the candles. From what I’ve been given to understand, this final touch is widely seen as adorable, though I suspect we’d all be disgusted if our server at Shari’s drooled on our pie order—but whatever. Point being, Lil Miss Poopy Pants Frisbee Player referees the rationing of the birthday cake, laying down a clear hierarchy of the birthday girl’s friends and family. Being no fan of spittle cake, I use this opportunity to further gorge myself on more appetizing menu options, prompting me to ask another friend in attendance if I look as bloated as I feel.

“Pretty sure we’re all bloated.”

“So yes. Your answer is yes.”

Unsanitary conditions, bloating, and indigestion aside, I’ve truly enjoyed my time in the sun with fabulous company and even better cuisine. But these kids, though. As a compromise, I give a solid 5 points out of 10 for this child’s party (with 5 points being deducted for the presence of other children).