Maybe it was all of the conversations I had with my Berlin friends, who subconsciously taught me how to live with the virus. Not as, it’s in my system kind of live. But, it’s not going anywhere, and let’s pray your state and country deals with it kind of way. And while our country has failed to come to task, I withhold the “tisk-tisk” judgment for my fellow New Yorkers. Because, through an unimaginable time, we did something unimaginable, we took it seriously. We stayed home. I know there are situations and people in which this need not apply. But I’m talking about the big picture. The evidence in the numbers for our state and city. And maybe, that evidence alone is where my own comfort lies these days.
I can’t pretend Covid has disappeared, or that the rate in which it disproportionately impacts brown and Black people, no longer exists. And at the same time, I am unwilling to write off the rest of my life and my kids’ lives for the year until some non-promised vaccine turns up. In an effort to broach the subject with reality and care that I find necessary, I have repeated a “live with” saying in my head. Which in huge part, can only be considered because we just stopped living without for months on-end. This approach is applied to birthday parties too.
I’ve never been the parent to give gifts frequently or in mass on birthdays. I hauled bamboo cutlery and glass mason jars to almost every party. For summer birthdays, parks have always served as backdrops. For winter birthdays, our homes (no matter the size) did the trick. For cake, I usually made something that isn’t entirely amazing, but presents itself with ample amounts of personality. And for invitees, I usually send one to everyone and their mama, too. I used to go all out, with little in regards to the margins of care required now.
Last week, Oak turned six. And after a jolted cancelation of school, removal of friends and a willingness to stay the course and stay in with his small family, I decided that my old rules of what to give and how to give were gone now. The prospect of a party as a celebration of life, seemed more immediate too. In contrast, these two worlds of giving and celebrating in this way, were bound to meet in a Pod Party.
Lately, as New York City has moved into phase two of reopening, I’ve been polling friends about their live with approach. Testing the bounds of their comfort. And in return, mapping my own. Without a doubt, the consensus remains unique for New Yorkers. We are tender, nervous, tired, cautious, eager, and confused, equally. And at any of those intersections, we have to weigh the multitude (as do many do). If I look ahead (which I have tried not to), I can only remain hopeful for the skills we develop as adults and newly-minted six year olds. Skills that will help us forge ahead, and that make the avenue of care one in which is more delicate. It is radical, when you truly think of it.
What To Create:
A Birthday list. Sort of like a Christmas list. But for birthdays. I’ve never done one with my kids. I usually take note of what they’ve expressed or what I think they need. This was a fun way to lead up to a party, that made it feel more celebratory.
A name. Calling it a Pod Party, immediately put the party in context for myself and for the kids. By explaining what it means to have a pod, and how we are moving along with our own pod as we venture out into the world a bit, was helpful. (We had another family that self-isolated for months like we did, so we included them in our pod for play. Then, when things opened up a bit more, I included my sitter into my pod. Since then, we have expanded to a few families and friends that also remain cautious and safe, and/or who have been tested for covid and remain cautious and safe. We will be expanding as time and people prove safe enough.)
Find A Setting:
A park or a yard. While we have a backyard that works well, our park has been our yard in many ways the last few months. And so, it was fitting that we hosted it there. Per CDC recommendations, gatherings with open air is best.
Table or picnic. Your choice! I was willing to do either. But at our park, a table under a giant tree, that provided shade throughout, was perfect.
The right time. I stuck to two hours in the early afternoon. Summer is here, and the sun is often ablaze. So I picked two hours before peak sun time, but not too early.
What to Eat:
Keep the packaging. For many years, I’ve tried hard to not use packaging or order food for a party.. But to keep everyone safe, packaging is your friend. For some, it may not be worth it. I understand. I tried to limit it as much as I could, but ultimately chose the path that felt right.
Oranges (no packaging!)
Juice boxes and large bottles of water for pouring
A large box of pizza from Oak’s favorite place
Buy Black. This was the first time I’ve ever purchased a “fancy cake.” And it was worth it on so many levels. The cake was made by BCakeNY. A Black-owned bakery in Brooklyn. It is important to be conscious of support on all levels and at all corners.
Precautions to Take:
Follow rules. Lay out your own. It is that simple. It seems like many people oscillate between not following the rules at all, and neurosis. I find myself squarely in the middle. While rules can be confusing, if you adapt what is written, things should be easy and clear.
Includes masks for everyone, and not showing up if you’re feeling ill. Simply put, hanging out with Covid-19 around is like having sex without a condom. You need to trust your partner(s).
Only one adult per family. Gone are the days where everyone and their mama needs to come to a child’s party. And isn’t that grand? A huge part of me welcomes this development. Any way to shake up the normative approach in how people parent, yes please!
Make the invite list visible via a digital invite. Transparency is key here. Let the invitees know who’s coming and how many.
Speaking of, only invite people and families you trust. For me, these were families that I knew were self-isolating, keeping a pod, had recently been tested, and/or people we had been around in the last few months with and without masks for any reason.
Bring Hand sanitizer and gloves. The hand sanitizer came in hand more times than I naturally thought about. And the gloves too! When it was time to cut the cake, I really needed to hold it up like I usually do, and grabbed gloves and wore them for cutting and serving.
You are living, enjoy it (ultimately, with risk and safety at hand).
Parties have become part of my personal culture, but I don’t think I appreciated them in such a way until now. We played music, we talked, and we laughed. Details are necessary and important. But fun can still be had. I’d argue, given the time, being in the presence of others to celebrate life is quite special these days.