My Favorite 40th Birthday Party Ever

Over the weekend I celebrated my 40th birthday along with a pile of family and friends. The party was terrific — everything I had hoped that it would be and more. Thanks to all who attended and helped to make it such a delightful, memorable time!

I had a magnificent surprise shortly after the party got underway: my father, who is still in a wheelchair from an accident three weeks ago, turned up along with all of the family members who had schemed and conspired to get him up for a visit. I had just spoken to my stepmom the day before, who had confirmed my suspicion that they wouldn’t be coming, and then was wracked with guilt for the next day at leading me astray to preserve the surprise. What a delight to have them all there together! Special thanks to my brother, who found a van with a wheelchair lift to make that possible.

I had decided a few weeks before the party that, per our family tradition, I wanted a piñata. I didn’t, however, want to do the usual boring thing of hitting it with a stick. My kids are getting too big for it to last long under those circumstances, and adults rarely get to participate. Thus was born what I suspect may become another family tradition: the birthday party piñata potato cannon.

My partner in crime Jason and I got together the week before to cobble together a cannon for the occasion. Because the circumstances would be a bit less controlled than those under which we usually fire such things, we built in extra safety features: a smaller-than-usual air chamber, a shorter barrel, the ability to break it down into smaller, harmless parts when not in use, and electrical safety triggers that required two buttons to be depressed simultaneously to fire the thing. Even so, we were hyper-careful the whole time that it was assembled, with at least one of us standing right next to it guiding its use at all times.

It was a tremendous hit. We ended up with a big crowd (standing at a respectful and safe distance) watching and cheering lustily as the magnificent tank-shaped piñata Kathy had found for the occasion gradually disintegrated under the starchy fusillade. My brother fired the decisive shot that finally peeled the top from the tank, causing the crowds of children to charge in and finish it off.

In spite of my insistence that no presents were needed, a few folks went renegade and brought some anyway. Maggie had bought me both a pair of hilarious “Happy Beerday” sunglasses and a wonderful “I Love my Daddy” frame with a photo of her months-old self. Abby came up with Ned Flanders’ book of wisdom. Jason and his wife Erin gave me a Maker’s notebook, with many pages of graph paper and conversion charts for the budding mad scientist — the perfect complement to the subscription to Make magazine that Kathy provided! (Hopefully she won’t come to regret that gift over time as my ridiculous projects become even more extravagant.) Dad & Lana gave me an astonishing pop-up book of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions, and also joined forces with much of the rest of the extended family to provide a bagpipe! (With a meerschaum in a ziploc as a proxy at the party.) With my daily walk through the cemetery on the way to work, I’m sure I’ll be tooting out Amazing Grace to the great annoyance of my neighbors very shortly. Or hyperventilating in the attempt.

Other highlights included some great conversations with wonderful friends, seeing a big circle of folks enjoying a round of my friend Barry’s game-in-development “Prince Carl”, enjoying some terrific food and drink, and reading all the birthday cards together in bed with Kathy after all of our guests had moseyed on.

Thank you again to all of you who came by and helped make this occasion such a joyful one for me. I am immensely grateful to have such a wonderful collection of friends and family to celebrate with me the achievement of this milestone, the reaching of the next decade in my life as I turn 40 years old.

Now, get off of my lawn.