Wednesday, March 14, 2007

FOUR ever Colm

The weather was spectacular for Colm's birthday. With the guest due to arrive at 2:30 we began the day by opening family presents...Beth made a doll for Colm (he named it Charlie) and we also gave him a toy golf set that he loves.
We hung up the pinata. I blew up about forty balloons - I didn't have a coronary. The kids colored the pirate poster for the pin-the-eye patch-on-the-pirate game, and then while Beth prepared to bake the cake, I slipped off into the woods behind the house to bury the treasure chests.
When the invitees arrived I got to see something I haven't witnessed much this year, Colm playing with other kids especially other boys.

First there was Alex, a sweet tempered classmate whose company Colm enjoys tremendously, a bit later came two more boys, Liam and Maxime, who together raised the physical energy of the gathering about tenfold. Then there was Constance from across the street, who along with Tess alternated between pirate and princesse personae. Colm was absoluted delighted by all of the company. The language barrier which has enforced on him a certain silent if not altogether solitary existance away from home seemed to dissolve before our eyes.

The kids got their faces painted, were issued pirate hats and eye patches, swords and sashes, and sent into the yard to let them develop their pack identity. They ran about occasionally cohering as a group other times subdividing like amoeba into pairs. After a bit we began attacking balloons with swords, a tricky proposition that ultimately forced some kids into popping balloons with their bare hands, each pop was saluted with "Vainquer!"
When the balloons were all gone we tried pinning the eye patch on the pirate. Six kids was a good number, nobody had to wait too long for a turn and everybody pretty much stayed involved with what was going on.
After that we went over to the pinata for some more whacking with swords. Beth did a good job manipulating the pinata up and down to preserve the pinata through the first round of attacks and then in the second round the bird was cracked open by Liam the Terminator.
After that it was to the table for chocolate cake which sailed in under the Jolly Roger.

The kids hoisted apple juice cups and sang Colm both Joyeuse Anniversaire and Happy Birthday. He blew out his candles and then we all sat around the table and told poop jokes in French and other funny stories like,
"Tu sais quoi? know what? what if you ate a cow!"
"Arhhh, aarhh, aarhhh...."
"yeah, and what if you ate crocodile!"
"what if you had poop in your cake."
"what if poopy pooped on the crocodile?"
"Arhhh! aarhh! aarhhh!...."

It was pretty hilarious to see these 4-5 year olds guffawing at the table like a bunch old timers.
As the table scene wound down I leaned forward, got everyone's attention ande asked them a question, "How would you like to know a secret?"
They all nodded.
In my most conspiratorial tone of voice, I whispered, "There is a treasure buried somewhere here on this lot."
Instantly everyone was energized. Liam was particularly vociferous, " I know where it is!"
"No one knows where the treasure is...not even me!"
"Yes I do!"
"No you don't." This isn't what I had envisioned, arguing with a four year old over the whereabouts of buried treasure.
"Yes!... I"
I cut him off, "Only Captain Hook knows where it is!"
"No, I..."
I cut him off again, "The rest of you, do want me to fetch Captain Hook?"
Instantly I left the table. In the background I could hear Liam still protesting to his mates. I passed Beth who murmured to me, "He saw you in the woods."
"What? How could he?"
"They drove by earlier this morning. He saw you digging."
Dammit. This pirate business was treacherous. I quickly put on my "costume" which had the effect of making me look like a Hells Angel...but I felt like Captain Hook. I reappeared and accosted the group with a flourish.
"Avast there ye scallywags, I'm Captain Hook an' ye'll never get me treasure not the likes of you ye landlubbers...what're ye take me for?"
Swords were raised. They rushed me. I caved. "Alright, spare my life an' I'll give you this." I brandished a rolled piece of paper. "It's not the map but it's the first clue to finding it. Who wants to look at it."
They all yelled, "Me."
They gathered round as I unrolled the paper. Before I showed it to them I said, "ye'll have to work together now mates. Tis dangerous work finding treasure."

Beth had drawn a picture of the bike and trailor. "Look at this! This where ye'll find the next clue on a sheet just like this one. There was a beat, then, "Now go and find it!" Off they ran, Tess led them directly to the bike but Liam didn't stop there, he seemed bent on heading behind the house. I called him back. "Find the clue! Find the clue!" Liam bit on the challenge and came back.
And so it went. Beth had hidden clues all over. They had to sort through a basket of cannonballs (balloons) to find the one with a clue hidden inside - Constance picked the correct balloon right away but was afraid to pop it. She sat demurely on the terrace with the prize balloon in her lap while the rest of the kids committed mayhem on the remaining balloons. When they had popped the last one they turned and looked at Constance sitting with her little silver balloon, Liam of course rushed her with his sword determined to make short work of the balloon, but I got there just in time and explained to Constance how she held the all important clue in her hands, we coaxed her into standing on it with both feet on it and popping it. She went from princess to pirate in about the time it took for the sound of that pop to trigger more shouts of glee.
Inside one of about a dozen cardboard fish was a clue, on top of the swingset, attached to Colm's bedroom window...the final clue was found on the back terrace. We unrolled it and saw a map in of the woods with an "X" between two trees. At last. The end game was on.
The kids poured over the fence and into the wooded area behind the house. I watched Liam closely and was relieved to see that while he knew the treasure was in the woods he hadn't the faintest idea where exactly to look. The kids searched everywhere mostly keeping together like a school of fish. Finally I pointed out the branches laid out like arrows on the ground.

In a matter of seconds they were there and on their hands and knees burrowing with their hands, no one even asked for a shovel. They looked like little jackals feasting on a carcass, their heads all together facing down. At length they got a hold of the plastic bag that was wrapped around their treasure boxes.
They worked furiously and mostly in concert, not always a strong suit of four year olds, and after awhile they had it out.

Tess carried it back into the yard where they all got their fair share of the booty, trinkets, toys, candy and more candy... a French custom, we have grudgingly surrendered to.
At the end, Colm opened the gifts his guests had brought him. He seemed to genuinely love everything and everybody at that moment.

Beth had masterminded a successful fete. Even better she and I had enjoyed ourselves immensely. We were relieved and pleased that we had managed to pull off a three hour event without any injuries and with so many smiles.
My personal high point was when Tess came to me and said, "Dad, you were a good Captain Hook!" I can quit the theater now in complete satisfaction...Beth just reminded me though that Tess has a birthday coming up in six weeks...


Anonymous erin said...

Wow you guys! What a wonderful party- it is clear that everyone had fun! And kudos to Beth for such orchestration!!! Happy Birthday, Colm~

12:27 PM  

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