Tuesday, 5 June 2012

On my nieces' birthday parties

Caveat: This post has taken me a long time to write. There probably was more of a point to it earlier on.

My eldest niece, Désirée, turned four on Easter Sunday this year. I went out to North Hatley for the event. On the morning of, I went up to her dad's house to get some information from him. She was very happy and excited to see me. She is normally rather quiet however, that day she was talking a mile-a minute and gave me a tour of the house whilst sitting on my shoulders. (That last bit has become some of our special game since her half-sister's birthday.)

I was a little surprised that the party was a "family" party with no other kids of Désirée's age. However, there was a younger party planned for the next day. I was giving Désirée a ride on my shoulders, when she suddenly noticed the bright yellow box with my Easter egg in it on the beam and wanted to know why it was there. This set off the Easter egg hunt. Kudos to her for noticing.
This picture was taken at the April Birthday Party (see below) but it captures Désirée on my shoulders

Late into the main course (raclette) Désirée was wandering around at slightly loose ends. She was standing on a sofa making eyes at the pile of presents for her and her Grandfather (whose birthday was the following day.) Sensing her wishes and wanting to make her birthday party a happy memory for her, I got up and gave one of my presents for her to her to open right away as I guessed that it would keep her occupied until dessert. It was a box of 60 coloured pencils, which combined with some scrap paper eased the wait for her. My brother later commented that the both the present and the fact I gave it to her early were good ideas. He has the view that "tool" presents are the best, coloured pencils being tools. I hope she remembers her "Moncle Daniel" gave her them long after I am gone.

If I sound morbid, I don't intend to. It is just that my personal set of memories truly begin from when I was about four. I have some memories beginning when I was three (and one from the summer I was 2 and a half(!)), but they are fragmentary and mostly date from Christmas just before I turned four, (and my birthday is in January). While my earliest memories may be exceptionally early, my pet theory is that permanent memory begins at around age four and therefore, this year is very significant for Désirée.

I mentioned this theory casually at the party. I was somewhat surprised that Eowyn (Désirée's half-sister) claimed to have no real memories from that age. I was also a little shocked that she made almost a boast of having little knowledge of the life of Jesus Christ. (This was not as random as it seems, as I had just given my Father a copy of "Jesus of Nazareth" on DVD for his birthday in the quixotic hopes of dampening his enthusiasm for his pursuit of a PhD in theology.)

I am at best an agnostic. And to borrow a phrase from an unknown Irishman, it is the Catholic God I don't believe in. Even more specifically, it is the Quebec Catholic God I don't believe in. I suffered through incredibly tedious Catholic public school catechism, which, looking back, never really got into the exciting bits of the Bible. I am far from one to advocate "Christian" thinking. However, I am of the opinion that she should know a bit more about the life of Jesus and related topics simply as part of her general culture. Like it or loath it, Christianity has had a tremendous impact on our planet. Then again, Eowyn might have been playing at being defiantly ignorant.

Two weekends later, there was a party celebrating Anna's first birthday. As luck and a dodgy VW camper van would have it, Anna and her parents (Alice and Mark) were in North Hatley for the event.

Among the presents I gave Anna was a board book copy of Robert Munsch's "The Paperbag Princess". The following week I was amused to see that it was on a top ten list of books for geeky dads to read to their kids.
Anna is quite the little cutie. At the time, she was crawling and standing with the aid of furniture. Doubtless, she is probably walking by now.
For complicated reasons, Alice, Mark and Anna then spent a night chez moi, making Anna the first of my nieces and nephew, to do so. This involved a considerable amount of rapid tidying, cleaning and baby-proofing. Of particular concern were the DVDs in my collection which are colourful and lots of fun for Anna to pull off the shelves.
At one point Mark took Anna for a longish walk in a carrier. The journey included a trip in the Metro. Mark has a slightly quirky idea about entertainment for bairns.

The following weekend saw a large gathering of relatives from my father's side of the family for the annual April Birthday Party. If I may explain, for some reason, a disproportionate number of people in the family were born in April, both my parents among them. Hence the need for a mass April Birthday Party. It serves the function of a family reunion as well.

All my three siblings and their families were there. I was somewhat surprised that one of my siblings had never been to one before. However, it allowed me to get in some photos of shot of both my nieces and my nephew together.

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