Monday reality this morning is a sigh of relief after successfully hosting nineteen kids at our house yesterday. Martha turns lucky number 7 in two day’s time, and she’s been planning her party since opening her final Christmas present.
Added to the already high intensity affair that Martha’s birthday parties tend to embody, it’s also a relief to have made it through another weekend keeping up with the slew of leaving parties that Saigon is awash with right now.
With only four weeks until school ends, local removal companies are making hay whilst the sun shines and the humidity grows even thicker.
The clammiest month of the year is also one of the most hectic. End of year dance shows, swim meets and football tournaments loom, but also end of era relationships, with transitioning ex-pats, turn the final page of their particular chapter.
Martha’s party was a hit, though. It was ‘Under the Sea’ themed, which meant that Saturday evening was spent with four willing volunteers sat on our sofas, drinking gin, tuning in to Harry and Meghan’s nuptials, and cutting out a variety of yellow, blue and green aquatic characters.
For the party itself, the now ‘signature’ flour, chocolate and water based team challenges were seamlessly orchestrated (there were two primary school teachers to assist) and topped off with Issy’s most elaborate and masterful centerpiece game to date: pin-the-lips-on-the-fish.
Being ‘third culture kids’ (a topic I touched on here last week) my daughters have been bracing themselves for saying goodbye to various classmates this summer.
Florence will be watching almost her entire “crew” of ten year old buddies disappear – to Europe, Colombia, Australia and (perhaps more realistically for a long weekend) to Thailand. Taking with them what I hope will remain very special memories and friendships for the future.
Making new acquaintances can be as exciting as reunions with old ones. This, perhaps, still stands throughout adulthood, however the bit that I find so energizing about youngsters spending time together, is watching how they easily slip into genuinely living in the moment of things. Something that does require a more concerted effort as the years roll on.
99% of Martha’s life, as this weekend has again been testament to, is lived about half a metre away from the end of her nose.
I’m guilty, 99% of the time, of failing to remember this, as I walk around the house, behind her, picking up a trail of discarded clothes, books, toys and other colourful debris that, moments earlier, were being given Martha’s undivided attention.
In anticipation of her 7th birthday, I’m attempting to leverage things to my benefit. A “7 clause” Pledge has been signed by Martha, and is currently pinned to our living room window.
The Pledge contains some routine opening conditions that Martha is affixing her commitment to, including: “flushing the toilet after using it” (for some reason this is one too many steps for her to follow during her daily ablutions); and “putting my dirty clothes in the laundry basket”.
I’ve then thrown in some more elaborate ones: “finding solutions to resolve arguments with my sister”; and “being gracious in defeat in all games and walks of life”.
Let’s see how those turn out.
As is perhaps standard practice, I’m as fired up in my annoyance of tripping over another one of Martha’s wet towels on the landing, as I then am in admiration for how exuberant and expressive she can be over the most mundane of topics or activities.
Perhaps this year ahead will mark the one where she becomes more self-conscious over her round-the-clock signing and roll playing, her curiosity about everything and her unashamedly ‘forward approach to communications’ (which may have been a direct lift from a previous school report of hers).
On Friday evening, Issy, me and the girls took our friend Chloe out for a special leaving party, as she is also leaving soon – to teach in Switzerland next year. We headed over to central Saigon for a change of scene, and booked two rooms in a hotel for the night.
Fancy bubbles, cocktails and dinner were then followed by carefree larking about in the hotel’s roof-top bar.
There were other hotel patrons, sat next to us at the time, who perhaps wouldn’t have been so charmed by our presence, as another rogue peanut, aimed by one of my enthusiastic party, went zinging past my mouth and onto a neighbour’s table.
The truth is, however, and as I recall it now, that I hardly took in any of our surroundings during the entire evening. I was simply having too much fun.
Alcohol inspired it might have been, but it was a special cosy corner of the world to be dancing in for those moments.
Life was playing out about half a metre in front of my nose, and I didn’t want it to stop.