"We Don't Let Dorothy Crack The Eggs Anymore"Chapter 10, "Birthday Party"

In ancient times, torture was inflicted by a stretch-rack.

It has been replaced by a nerve-wrack, given the sugar-coated name of a child's birthday party. Outside of wearing a girdle two sizes too small, I can think of no greater discomfort than refereeing such a free-for-all.

(Actually, neither giver nor guest gets off free...)

And this "din" mother not only lost her composure, but also her voice trying to keep order in the melee.

I shall now try to reconstruct the recipe for madness which occurred on one of the rainiest days memory permits. Newspapers were spread about the porch floor but failed to prevent the muddy prints which have ground abstract prints into the rug.

Early comers, whose sprints through the house in high dudgeon made the Indianapolis 500 look like a sluggish pace, were asked (forced is more like it) to blow up balloons in the hopes some of their energy would diminish.

Up drove a Theater-On-Wheels, a semi-truck converted into a moving movie house, which necessitated removal of all cars in front of the house.

"Where can I plug the cords?" asked the combination driver-projectionist and magician.

I pointed him to the garage, while the growing army of present-toters began poking their fingers into the birthday cake icing, the eyes of other child-guests and the balloons.

"Ready?" yelled the projectionist. The mob surged forward to front-row themselves inside the air-conditioned truck.

His motor whirred on. Mine stopped. The fuses had blown and most of my house was minus Tom Edison's invention, including the refrig, which stopped making ice for punch and melted the ice cream, which unfortunately, I discovered later, for in the confusion, the ice cream was forgotten and it still coats the frozen peas and chicken legs in the freezer.

After the driver had run off the cartoons and opened his bag of magic tricks which these blase bundles of action tried to shoot down, I suggested he drive the truck off somewhere like a modern Pied Piper, but he merely winced.

At that point, rain began pelting us again and the fun-and-games that had kept the boys from climbing trees went indoors.

Show me a birthday boy who gets to blow out the candles on his cake all by himself and I'll show you a party for one. And try to keep the candles lit as they press forward, panting their hot breath on the icing. But doling the sliced pieces -- THAT takes the cake!

"I want a rose!" "Me first!" "That rose is MINE!" Shrieks pierce the air. The knife pierced the cake, but alas, why don't the baker's men put more than a single cluster of roses on top?

Twenty-eight youngsters, ranging from still-toothing tots to a 10-year-old all "helped" Billy, the 8-year-old, open his gifts. Some insisted on taking theirs home. Someone lost his 'Super ball" -- whatever that is -- and with all the machine guns, rifles and war gear, we ended up with advanced stages of combat fatigue.

On the plus side, a young couple, ages four and five, fell in love. Their ardent hand-holding was discovered by older brethren, who unfortunately in their zeal to see the sweethearts kiss, knocked their two heads together. (Does our insurance cover this?)

Night fell. Also me. Clutching a security blanket known as a martini, I gasped goodbyes to the parting company.

Happy Birthday? My son turned eight. And I turned gray. Also chicken...about giving another festival of bedlam. Until the next child's turn comes...