Having finally accepted that I would not budge on the birthday party issue, my parents decided to have one for Dovie themselves. They told him-not me- to call up all his friends and invite them to a jam on the Saturday after his birthday. Unsurprisingly, they said it to my hearing, seeing as that is far more likely to yield result than a ‘two-man’ with Dovie. ‘Mum, he has no friends’ I said patiently. ‘Just you wait and see’ she replied airily, ‘we’ll have the best children’s party ever’.
During the week of the party, I saw and spoke to my parents about four times and each time there was some comment about how fun the party would be and what a bore I am, preceded or followed by a snort. On Saturday, we turn up dutifully outfitted for a children’s party. Daddy is supervising the canopies, Mum has blown up balloons when we drive in. The kitchen is stocked with paper plates, Styrofoam cups, balloons, pop-out whistles, toffees, chocolates, biscuits and a big blue teddy bear cake. She even had the food catered. She also told every invitee to bring a child along. There was every indication that it would be a great children’s party. I was humbled and touched by how much effort and expense they had gone to mark my son’s first birthday and anniversary of our parenthood. And I was almost ashamed that the children’s party for Dov was, contrary to all I’d sworn, possible.
Uncle Alex and Auntie Maggie were the first to arrive at about one thirty, with no child in tow. Then it was two, then two-thirty, then three. At nearly four we gave up the wait for the kids and set up the cake table. Then surrounded by grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, Dovie cut his cake or rather his parents cut his cake and he crumbled the parts nearest him. At about six, the first children arrived- they were 11 and 12. Dovie had, as to be expected, exhausted himself and was fast asleep. The greatest children’s party ever ended up having six children –with only 2 being under 10.
We did all have a blast though. After the cutting of the cake, it was renamed the first anniversary of grandparenthood jam and became an openly adult party. All pretense of interest in the token six little people was given up. They were left to amuse themselves and the party broke up into generational caucuses; the grandparents out on the lawn, the parents, uncles and aunts in the living room and the token six running around.
Even though I was proven right about the childrenlessness of the party, I am very glad my parents did what they did. It was heartening to see that all these older people would clear their day because of us. Indeed it was a very nice reminder that here, people are members of groups, nobody stands alone or with just their nuclear family. Everyone has a clan of family and near family with whom they belong. I found a warming comfort in the certainty that our joy was theirs too and that they could all be counted upon in our times of trouble to be our net. Of course, that also means all these people will at some point annoy us with unsolicited advice or insist that something we have decided not to do is the only way to ensure a child’s mental health. Still it is very good feeling, a worthwhile trade-off.
To some extent, all the people who came are good for our marriage and the stability of our home. Not because of any grand contribution they will make to it but because they will be concerned and disappointed to see it dissolve. While this is not enough to keep me in an unhappy marriage, it certainly holds sway over my parameters of what is forgivable. I suspect the same is true for Kofi. The concern for the equilibrium and happiness of the children of a union is very Ghanaian and is manifest largely in the social support and subtle pressure young marriages receive. It is a trying thing indeed, the process of convincing all the parties who helped the union to be formalized to aid in its dissolution. One has to be very unhappy or much wronged- which interpretation in these parts often does not include adultery- to get support and help.
Like all Ghanaians, we too are a part of a complex setup defined as family and not determined by blood. The many presents Dovie received and the party that broke up shortly before midnight attest to that. While the visual reminder of said network has neither convinced nor inspired me to resolve to have 1st birthday parties for my second son and any yet unborn children, it has made sharper my understanding of our place in the great circle of things.