As part of a visual self portrait at school Hazel listed "partying" as something she was 'good at'. So you can imagine with her sixth birthday was a big event. In the lead up she wrote list after list covering categories such as guests, food, games, music and themes. A little closer to the date she collated these into a book, the party book. The themes were elaborate, ambitious and resource-wise, demanding. In total seriousness she requested Taylor Swift. This was when the Gym bus party was sitting at top of the list. As in, Could Tay Tay sing on top of the Gym bus? I'm sure Tay Tay could pull it off but as I explained, she had tour commitments. Closer to the date I became more nervous. Any attempt to firm up plans was met with tears. So we put the lists, the book and the talk to one side. And while all the party planning was on hold I got to thinking about parties and how the art of throwing a party was being lost in a culture of outsourcing. Goddammit, I thought, we are going old school. Breaking the news was tough. Hazel cried and cried and cried. Holding her wrapped in a blanket after her epic sob session we gazed at the empty yard and hills hoist against a grey sky. That hills hoist would make a great frame for some streamers, I ventured. Eventually, my little party animal looked up and agreed. Her spirits lifted. She loved the days of preparation, all of us working together on baking, games and decorations (including a purpose-built "Welcome" booth for Otto in the front yard). Sure, I had a crisis on the morning. I was literally puffed from tidying the house at double speed. If I was throwing a pool party I wouldn't be puffed, I'd be holding a latte.
But Hazel welcomed her friends with pride. They had a great time. My favourite thing? Watching the kids tear around in an hour-long game of hide and seek. They didn't need anything other than each other and a glass of water. Parched hunters and nervous, excited prey. It was a Happy Birthday.