Growing up, I never really had a lot of birthday parties. Oh, don't be mistaken I was invited to a ton. I was popular. But when it came to having all my friends come and celebrate my birthday with me, I really only remember two.
I remember my first party. I was in kindergarten. It was in my basement, and I think the only thing I asked for was Jem merchandise. I even wore my Jem sweatshirt to the party. This I know because I've seen pictures. I thought I was so cool. Correction, I was cool.
My second party was at the old Rainbow Lanes bowling alley in fifth grade. The reason I remember it was because my mom told my best friend Morgan that she was "a natural bowler." To this day, Morgan still starts sentences with the phrase, "Remember in fifth grade at your bowling party..."
Between those parties, I thought I was pretty cool. All my friends were there, and I was in the spotlight for the day, so I was happy.
But my friends and readers, two weekends ago, I went to a birthday party to end all parties. In my 27 years of existence, I thought I had been to them all. I've been to the roller skating parties, I've been to the bonfire parties, I've been to the '50s themed parties. I've done the costume party, the adult dinner party and the toga party. But never had I been to a carnival birthday party, which included carnival food and games galore, until I attended my 1-year-old niece's birthday party.
That's right. The best party I've been to in recent memory was for a 1-year-old.
Now, before people who know my family freak out, Camryn is not technically my niece. She is the daughter of two of my dearest friends, and I'm lucky enough to be called Auntie Dana. And because I don't have any real nieces or nephews to spoil, I satisfy my obsession and buy baby clothes for Miss Camryn. But I digress.
Two weeks ago, Camryn turned 1 year old. And to celebrate this fantastic occasion, her family, her friends (ranging from the ages to 1 to 3) and her parents' friends attended Camryn's Carnival. There was cotton candy, slushies, lemon shakes, hamburgers and fries, which all did wonders for my diet. But there was also games for young and old, and the best part - there was a bouncer. I'm not talking about some trampoline or a big dude working security. I'm talking an inflatable, 20-foot tall, 200-pound maximum capacity bouncer.
Here's a note for any parent out there thinking that getting an inflatable bouncer is a good idea - it is. It's fantastic. You just need to make sure that the adults don't try and hog the bouncer and the actual kids have time to jump.
I'll give my group of friends credit. We stayed away and let the kids have their fun. Granted, we kept looking over every five minutes to see if they were done, and I think a few people were drooling, but nonetheless, we kept our distance. Once the kids were done, the adult jump was on.
The sign posted read that the maximum was one adult, or 200 pounds. Well, we've never been a group to follow directions well, which was evident when at one point we had six grown adults in the bouncer at the same time. We were jumping, we were laughing, we were like 5-year-olds again - which brings me to the moral of this story.
For many of us in the Zone generation, birthday parties for ourselves or our friends now consist of dinner, a few drinks and maybe a text message to wish you well on your special day. We are done with the days of parties at the roller rink or being the person whose parents were "cool enough" to let them have boy/girl parties. Those days are over, and it's now time we start the cycle over by attending our kids', nieces' and nephews' parties to get our fill of childhood excitement. Which is OK, because every one of us still is a kid at heart who gets the biggest thrill from being able to bounce around a 20-foot-tall inflatable tiger.
I have a feeling we'll be looking forward to our kids' birthday parties from here on out. For one, if you're like my group of friends, it's one of the few times we can all get together. And secondly, what other time of year can grown adults jump on a bouncer without getting laughed at?
OK, so they laughed at us at the party. But that's because we couldn't keep our balance. We're old, darn it!
Sulonen is a sports writer at the Tribune. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org