One of my favorite pictures of me—I love me—shows me in jeans, boots and a large belt buckle. (I was about a year old, in case you were imagining me as a thirty-year-old in just jeans, boots, and a belt buckle). I looked like I had a beer belly because it flopped over the belt. I also looked like half our uncles at the family reunion.
Anyway, I got the great notion to dress Jonah in that same get-up, complete with obnoxiously large belt buckle, for his first birthday party. I called Mom to have her look at the same Western store that we got our fancy duds when we were kids. I believe she was weeping tears of joy when we hung up the phone. (There have been deaths of good, close friends where she hasn’t shed a tear. A large belt buckle? Let the waterworks flow!)
I don’t know why I asked Mom to look, though. We in Kentucky have a rather large contingent of the population here who prefers to starch their Wranglers and wear chaps. So, I meandered down the street to a boot store with Jonah for a fitting.
As I entered the place, I could tell everyone was watching, hoping that I was buying Jonah his first pair of boots. Although they could probably make double the sale if I bought boots, having cute boots to show off simply is fun. It took me about a minute and a half to get all his clothes—jeans and boots—purchased.
When I showed Sunday his little boots and wranglers and she cried. (I don’t know if she liked it or not. Maybe she saw some sort of inevitability in all this, but she seemed to like the jeans and boots).
When Jonah’s party came about, we dressed him in his outfit, complete with a pressed white shirt. He greeted everyone who came in the room with a “HEY!” and a smile. When everyone got there, the party started.
As with many Towleses I know, Jonah started the party by stripping down to his diaper. While some of us have attended other parties where someone strips down to his diaper, it’s extra fun when your kid is doing the stripping. The cake that Sunday’s aunt made had a whale design—the party was a whale of a party—and she also made a smaller cake with a whale on it, too.
Jonah sat there in the middle of the room, with a drop cloth under his high chair and hands poised to devour food. (Don’t you just love meals where a drop cloth is needed? It seems to add to the ambiance). I was betting on him eating that cake in about three seconds. In fact, I was thinking we were going to need one of those rodeo calf roping announcers: “That cowboy ate that cake in four-point-three seconds. It’s a new naked cake eating record. It’s going to be tough to beat!”
When the cake was placed before him, however, nothing happened. Nothing. For a kid who has tasted every piece of furniture, every shoe, every tile and every square inch of our carpet in the past six months, his cake eating left a lot to be desired.
It was like he was saying, “No thanks. I think I’ll have some coffee instead.”
Or, “No thanks. Whales are out of season.”
Or, “No thanks. Quit staring at me. I’m not going to do it, mostly because you want me to do it.”
We waited a good two or three minutes, until I stuck his hand in the cake. Then, he was forced to lick it off. And the fun began. I believe Sunday’s aunt included her own special ingredients for Jonah’s cake—cocaine icing—so by the time Jonah was finished, I was really worried that he’d pawn something so he could buy more icing. He was all hopped up on cake. His eyes were bloodshot, he was waving a gun around, he had the icing all over his nose—a clear sign that someone’s been using—and he could only moan for more cake. Toward the end, he resorted to picking bits of cake and icing off his little body to support his habit. Jonah had become a cake head.
We took the cake away just in time and put him in a bath. (Again, another party where someone gets so messed up, he needs a bath. Just like family reunions). By the time Jonah was washed and dressed again, it was time for the presents. In the middle of the presents, though, he became tuckered out.
I have a theory about life. You can only do great or exciting things if you can handle the celebration. I call it the “little league home run” theory. (The worst beating I ever got came as a result of my teammates congratulating me on a home run). While Jonah didn’t quite last his entire party with a full head of steam, he handled it.
We had a great time, mostly watching him.
Isn’t that what all this is about, in a sense? Just watching him and enjoying it and making sure that he gets cleaned up when he gets messed up? Not to extrapolate too much from that little party, but for the past ten years, that’s basically what we’ve been doing.