When I was a little girl, birthday party invitations meant choosing between the three options in the little stationers in town (pirate, princesses or the jungle). Your mum would write them out neatly in her very best handwriting and send them with you to school, and then you’d watch and wait for the little tear off slips to be brought back to you over the course of the next week. We all had the same, except for one girl. A friend of her family was in the printing trade and her party invites were, to my four to eleven year old self, a thing of beauty and loveliness. Little cards about the side of your hand, with tightly scalloped edges, and blank swirly printed script in the middle. The centre of the card was white but the borders were ombre; each year a different colour.
They were in a different class to all of our invitations, and as having anything personalised is just about the most exciting thing ever when you’re in primary school, we were all wildly impressed. It’s funny what your brain remembers, I don’t remember much about the birthday parties, but I could make you a mock up of the invitation pretty quickly. Perhaps it’s because they stood out so much, or perhaps it’s because they sang to the embryo stationery addict in me; the one that was already collecting up beautiful writing paper and cards, and then having to force herself to use it because nothing ever truly seemed quite good enough an occasion, and hoarding and writing are not the same thing.
To that little girl, the idea that in the future you could design your own invitations or announcements from the colour of the envelope up, with more pretty templates in any colour you want than it’s possible to look at in a lunch hour, would have seemed a far off impossible dream.
It was in fact nothing short of miraculous even so recently as when I was expecting Kitty. A very dear friend and colleague was trying to talk me into having a baby shower, but I was a little reluctant; I’d never been to one before, I didn’t know whether it was too American or just too un-English, and it hung in the balance until on one lunch break we started exploring the possibility of a very beautiful invitation.
Twenty minutes later I was completely sold on the whole concept, including an invitation decorated with turquoise butterflies – what can I say, I’m nothing if not consistent.
And for the record, it was a truly lovely tea party with some of my very favourite people – I’m so very glad the invitation tempted me.
Since then I’ve had family Christmas cards with Kitty’s beaming face smiling out from underneath a hand knit candy striped hat; her beautiful first birthday invitations, with a photo that took a whole morning to persuade her to sit still and smile when there was so much mud in the garden to go and crawl into; and Elma’s first birthday invitations with added snowflakes and sparkle for my winter baby.
Pip, being the third baby, got neither personalised invitation nor party for his first birthday for which I can only hope that he will in time forgive me. We’d just got back from travelling last summer and we decided we’d much rather spend the day as a family. Perhaps having two older sisters dancing to your tune all day and satisfying your every wish counts as a party anyway.
Our general rule has been to have a first birthday party and then not bother with birthday parties until they’re well into school, or at the very least until I can muster up enough courage to host an entire class, but I’m wondering whether Pip should get a party between now and then to make up.
So this is my question for the day – how suspicious would it be to host a party because you just happen to have seen the perfect invitation?