As we have adjusted to life in lockdown, plenty of families have been celebrating birthdays in their households without parties. More common than candle blowing this year are shouts of “I love you” across the lawn or renditions of “Happy Birthday” over FaceTime.
Despite these adjustments, people are still finding fun and unique ways to make their landmark days special.
‘40 and fine’
Catonsville parent Kimberly Neal was supposed to celebrate her 40th birthday on March 25. She had initially planned a celebratory brunch and an exciting trip to Italy with her husband. But the plans changed when the state’s stay-at-home order was issued. And instead of waking up early to catch a flight, Neal woke to find a new fun-filled itinerary written by her family.
“My front yard was an ‘art show’ decorated by neighbors with wine bottles and balloons hanging from a tree and a huge sign that said ‘40 and Fine as Wine,’” she says.
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Next was some private yoga on TV and breakfast ordered in from THB Bagels & Deli, her favorite. For lunch, her husband treated her to La Palapa’s enchiladas and a margarita while she had a Zoom visit with friends. “I did this while wearing a 40th rhinestone tiara, pink sequin dress, silver heels, and of course, full hair and makeup,” Neal says.
For dinner, she decided to change into an evening look and enjoy another Zoom hangout with friends, this time with champagne. “I changed into a black cocktail dress with a tulle skirt, redid my hair and makeup for an evening look and kept the tiara,” she says. “My husband grilled steaks and he, my son, and I ate dinner using fine china and crystal. The entire day was amazing.”
But Neal wasn’t the only one enjoying herself at home: Her son also celebrated his 8th birthday in April.
“He had four Zoom chats with friends and family, a drive-by greeting from a friend complete with birthday signs and fun music, and he happily rode his new bike all day,” she says. “In these situations, you have to make lemonade from lemons.”
If the Neals are any indication, birthdays in a pandemic can still be fun. But admittedly, some creativity and planning are required.
Virginia parent Tiana Petersen needed a good substitute for the pool party she had planned for her son Matt’s 6th birthday.
“I am planning on having a cupcake decorating party on Zoom,” she says. “My plan is to make cupcakes, put them along with sprinkles and frosting in baggies and then deliver the boxes to his friends—by placing them on their door steps. Then we can have a Zoom meeting and everyone can decorate their cupcakes together.”
A sweet 16
Bel Air resident Ed Salvatierra says he couldn’t blame his daughter Mia for feeling “extremely sad” about celebrating her 16th birthday during the shutdown.
“She tried to hide her feelings and was trying to lower her expectations, but her disappointment was obvious,” he says.
Luckily, her friends had some surprises for her: One friend collected birthday messages for a video. Others drove their cars to her house, honked their horns, held up signs and even tied a helium balloon on to the family’s basketball hoop.
“Her friend sent the full video, so Mia had it when she woke up on her birthday, and she was thrilled. I’m sure she will remember those gestures for a lifetime,” Salvatierra says.
In Towson, Martha Edwards, along with her daughter, Maggie, 15, helped celebrate another birthday from a distance. It all started with a group text.
“The text was from the mom of one of my daughter’s friends asking us to help celebrate her daughter Audra’s 15th birthday,” Edwards says. “She asked us to simply come outside at a specific day and time and hold a sign and say “Happy Birthday” when they drove by.
They put out a few balloons, made a sign and even put together a little gift bag. “We added a roll of toilet paper just for fun,” Edwards says.
Making that connection
Even though parties have been downgraded to a home celebration, the main takeaway is that there are still so many ways to connect, she adds.
“What do we all miss the most on our birthdays? We miss hanging out with our friends and family. I’ve seen so many people using Zoom and FaceTime for virtual happy hours, and now, virtual birthday parties,” she says. “Everyone can still sing, talk and share well wishes. There are so many ways we can all be creative and make it work.”
A version of this story appeared in the May 2020 digital edition of Baltimore’s Child and Washington FAMILY.