I’m not quite sure when it started, but it started early. Really early.
I think the very first Birthday Banner debuted when No. 1 turned 3 years old. A friend had mentioned how her dad would sit on the edge of her bed on the eve of every birthday and talk about how that was the last night she was going to be 8 or 9 or 10. It struck me as so sweet. I wanted a tradition.
I tried different things over the years, including the Bed Talk. Didn’t stick. Then, as part of the big day’s festivities, we’d watch a home movie showcasing the birthday kid’s first year. The only problem was one kid was/is overly sentimental and would melt down watching those. Growing up can be a scary thing.
The birthday affirmations also kind of bombed. Well, not really, but they were a lot of work, so I quit. Also stolen from a friend, the affirmations consisted of slips of paper — one for each year — of all the things that were amazing about the birthday celebrant. So, first of all, this gets harder as the kids get older (especially if you’re the only one writing them) and one year, I noticed the one kid who is not especially sentimental just left his affirmations abandoned on his cluttered desk. In a heap. For the entire year. They never went into a special box or anything, so for that next birthday, I crossed out the age on the back and reused them. That was the last time for the affirmations.
But the banners, everyone digs the banners.
The original idea — not sure where it came from, maybe a commercial? — involved stretching a hand-drawn banner across the birthday kiddo’s doorway. I used what are known as end-rolls, which is what is used to print the newspaper. They start out as these ginormous rolls that look like TP for the Jolly Green Giant and get loaded onto the presses and then they whittle down to the point that they’re not big enough to run an entire edition so the scraps are set out each week for free. Teachers and parents love them. We’ve used them for wrapping paper and signs and lining a guinea pig cage and they seemed perfect for the Birthday Banners. I thought it would rip pretty easily when the birthday girl busted through, but alas, the tape holding the paper up just stripped paint off the walls and the banner stuck in her face. Birthday Banner 2.0 involved simply hanging it above the birthday kid’s place at the dining table.
The centerpiece of the banner is the age, in super-sized numbers, surrounded by little drawings of inside jokes and age-pertinent doodads. The art isn’t always the best — No. 3 said he felt bad for the ones drawn for his oldest sister since she is actually the most artistic of all of us. If she’s not involved, the banners tend to look like crap. (See above. That’s my handiwork.) But, it’s the thought that counts, right?
And while I get so aggravated by backpacks left out on the dining room chair and sports jerseys abandoned on the table and blankets heaped in piles on the couch, it doesn’t bother me that the birthday banner can stay taped to the wall for weeks. It makes me smile even though it’s bittersweet. I think part of me feels that by leaving it up, they’ll stay this age forever. But, they won’t. Time does pass fast and years really do fly by before you know it. Things happen so quickly that you blink and you miss stuff, like the fact that my 16-year-old is apparently still wearing the same underwear I bought her when she was 12, which is an amazing nod to Hanes’ craftsmanship but also, I really do need to make some time to take her shopping for new chonies.