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For You — A Happy Birthday Grab Bag

November 27, 2011
Oh how I miss the children’s birthday parties of yesteryear!
There was none of this specially-themed-and-time-intensive-craftiness business I’ve seen parents ambitiously embark on today. 
This summer my daughter attended a party in which she basically left with 1.) a handsewn satin bag filled with genuine magical fairy dust, 2.) sparkly wings of silk spun by poor exploited forest sprites, and 3.) a head wreath of juniper, gathered in Pixie Hollow and fastened together with lavender sprigs kissed by golden morning meadow dew. 
Or maybe it was just a few plastic Tinker Bell trinkets, I really couldn’t keep track of it all.
Right about then I had a silent cry in memory of the tacky, themeless, thrown-together birthday parties of my youth.

This is about as good as it gets in 1979.

In the birthday parties of my day, you’d maybe have a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey type of thing to warm up the crowd.  You’d maybe hold the party at a skating rink, where they’d maybe announce your name over the loud-speaker at the end of the day (pure joy!), and maybe they’d give you an inedible-yet-able-to-survive-a-nuclear-holocaust Little Debbie sponge cake with a candle in it. 

Everything involved was, and appeared to be, an afterthought.  

At the best of parties, you’d leave with a “grab bag” of random, unrelated trinkets thrown in a brown paper bag with Grab Bag scribbled on it in black magic marker.  Not even a dentist office treasure chest could compete with the unbridled anticipation of digging into a plastic laundry basket filled with brown lumpy bags. 

Maybe that’d bag contain some puffy unicorn stickers, probably a five-cent plastic top, possibly a glow-in-the-dark rubber bracelet and, if you were lucky, a Happy Meal toy still left inside the wrapper.  On good days, you’d also find a few marshmallow Circus Peanuts that you’d promptly puke up in the back of your station wagon on the ride home. 

So in honor of my past attended birthday parties (and in celebration of my 36th birthday this week), I present to you my grab bag of random crap.  And don’t you dare send me one of the Martha Stewart line of Kodak thank-you photocards for this.   I mean it.   I’ll go ape-crazy on you for that.


This is a new weekly/bimonthly/annually/one-time segment I like to call . . .


Each week/month/year/Just today I will premier a photograph from the 70s, 80s or 90s of a person exhibiting their fashion A-Game.   I am now accepting submissions for future segments/for just my own amusement.  Click on my Contact page and email them to me — web link, jpg file, graphite rendering, whatevah.  Please indicate if you wish to attribute the photo in your name, your friend’s name, or the name of a person listed in the obituary pages who is not able to protest your submission.  [See also Voter Fraud.]

This one came to me by accident while trolling Facebook.  Jason, a friend and loyal/sometimes blog reader of mine is, in current date, a Fashion Do!  He “Wears It Better” than just about any guy I know.  How unsurprising that his suave taste was apparent at an early age. 

I give this ensemble a B+.  It’s just an all-around winner.  Perfect for a jog around the arcade to see if they finally received the new Donkey Kong 2, suitable for an aerobics workout set to Olivia Newton John, or comfortable for just lounging around the house playing Space Invaders on your TV-set-shaped-like-a-chest-of-drawers.  I unfortunately had to detract points since the tube socks are not Regulation Knee-High Length. 

This ensemble is hands-down an A.  No question.  Let’s applaud Jason for finding an appropriate way to work in white pants after Labor Day.  I first suspected they might actually be ultra-stonewashed jeans.  I hope I was wrong about that.  

My favorite thing about this ensemble is that my husband just last week layered a V-neck sweater over a shirt and tie.  At the time, nothing about it felt Ricky Schroder/Carlton Banks/James Spader of Pretty in Pink/Sonny Crockett to me.  Until I saw this photo. 

It’s like I was blind and now I see.  And am I seeing peach stripes?  Oh please, let it be so.


Also in your take-home grab bag, you’ll find random recycled crap.  Wait, it’s not crap.  No, really!  This is good stuff.  Better than an unused Hamburglar pencil eraser.  And it’s not all that random either — it carries a theme.  Yes, a theme!  Take that, Tinker Bell Birthday Party.

For you, just in time for the holidays, I have stuck in your bag: 

1.)  A hilarious interpretation of the classic Rudolph Christmas special, by blogger Speaker7, titled Santa Claus is Kind of a Dick

2.)  My past post on gifts-that-keep-on-keeping-on.  Includes this bonus — what to do with the kitten sweatshirt given to you by your eccentric great-aunt (burning it may only work in special cases),

3.)  My past post on my 1983 Sears Wish Book wishes.  This one’s for the little people in your life who can’t even begin to grasp the level of toy extravagance (ahem, Barbie Yacht) we might’ve once enjoyed on Christmas morning if only our parents were as indulgent as theirs.  And . . .

4.)  A brief essay on why Generation X is sick of your bullsh*t.  Which is not quite in line with the others’ holiday theme, but happens to be somewhat in line with my blog theme, and might be the funniest thing I’ve read in half a century.  And that makes me want to thank sweet baby Jesus for the gift of laughter.   Merry Christmas and happy birthday!  Amen.


And that, my friends, is what you call a theme party.  Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you enjoyed your grab bag of trinkets.  Now please leave your presents for me by the door as you depart.  I hope you remembered I like Shrinky-dinks.


25 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2011 6:18 am

    Oh, I laughed so hard reading this! My daughter’s birthday is today and she wants to go to that dreaded circle of hell, otherwise known as Chuck E. Cheese. I was just saying to my kids, “Back in my day, we didn’t have Chuck E. Cheese. oh, no–what did I have for my birthday party? My mom would throw a lopsided cake on the table, I’d open my gifts, then she’d yell at us to go outside and play. That was it!”

    I loved the fashion evaluation. Can I send you a snazzy picture of my husband, circa 1977? I’m sure you’d have a field day with it…

    Happy birthday to you, by the way!

    • November 28, 2011 5:50 pm

      Thanks and happy birthday, Darla’s daughter! Hope she had a great day today. When I was a kid, Chuck E. Cheese was better known as Showbiz Pizza and it wasn’t in my city. Plus, the shifty-eyed mechanical animals would’ve tainted my restful sleep for years to come. Lopsided cake and “get outside” was a lot more like my birthday parties too.

      I will expect that photo of your husband in my email inbox by next week.

  2. November 28, 2011 6:41 am

    I am honored to be included in the assorted crap one finds in a paper bag with the words “grab bag” written in black marker. Those grab bags were the best. I remember receiving one with a hunk of blue cotton candy stuck inside a bag with a creepy clown face on the front. It was quite possible that the cotton candy was actually insulation.

    Happy Birthday this week! If I knew how to sew or could find a woodland sprite to kidnap, I would so give you a satin bag filled with fairy dust.

    • November 28, 2011 5:55 pm

      A satin bag filled with fairy dust made by exploited woodland sprites? Oh, you’re too good to me.

      Isn’t cotton candy actually insulation? Or maybe just the pink kind.

      Duh, I should’ve used one of your funny-ass Santa pictures with the caption bubble on it. Oh, well. I’ve since switched it out with one.

  3. November 28, 2011 11:38 pm

    I got a bag of carrots once.

  4. November 29, 2011 10:30 am

    i had one birthday party as a kid (and have told this story so many times to my four wee ones that they now preface it by eye rolling, deep sighs, and moans of, “oh, god. here she goes again.”). i think we sang, ate cake, and possibly played a game. there were about five kids. when it was over mom said, “we are NOT doing that again.” i totally regret the first birthday party for my kids. sets the bar WAY too high. happy birthday and love, love, love the photo of the kid in nutters. i am waiting for those to come back.

    • November 29, 2011 5:12 pm

      That is hilarious, Monica! I love how it sounded like a lovely party, and then your mom said you weren’t ever doing that again!

      I forgot those shorts were called nutters — eeek!

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  5. tracy permalink
    November 29, 2011 5:32 pm

    i can only recall having one birthday party as a kid. My only memory of it was a game that you had to push a shelled peanut across the room with your nose. one kid got a bloody nose and ruined my party. i still hate that kid. the end.

    • November 29, 2011 9:32 pm

      Fantastic party memory. So great it makes my nose bleed.

  6. November 29, 2011 6:12 pm

    I might be a little late, but Happy Birthday, Angie. I’m trying to snag a cheesy, sparkly mood ring for your gift. The gum ball machine is out of them.

    • November 29, 2011 9:34 pm

      That is the best! How’d you know I always wanted one of those? No pressure though if the gumball machine doesn’t produce. I’ll take a rabbit foot keychain or whatever else you find in there.

  7. November 29, 2011 8:45 pm

    My one birthday party was rather pitiful. It was during 2nd grade which was a particularly bad year for me, having wet my pants during Show & Tell one week after moving to town. So the party was not, ummmm, well attended. However, to get more kids, my parents invited the boy down the street who used to beat me up.

    I got a Virgin Mary plant holder.

    Hope your birthday (and Maineac’s Daughter’s too) is better!

    • November 29, 2011 9:35 pm

      I think your party memory might be my favorite one yet. I read it out loud to my husband, and just when I thought the funny was over, I read “Virgin Mary plant holder.”

      I think everyone at some point wet their pants during show and tell.

      • November 30, 2011 10:07 am

        To quote Dave Barry, I am NOT making this up! Perhaps that gift is why I have never been very much into plants.

      • December 2, 2011 9:09 am

        In case I might be interested, I wonder what else is available in that line — Virgin Mary koozies, Virgin Mary ash trays?

  8. December 3, 2011 5:01 pm

    Well, it just so happens that there is a couch:

    For a not-terribly-religious person, Mary seems to be hanging around me a lot.

    • December 6, 2011 10:54 am

      I’m feeling a little hurt that I haven’t had as many Virgin Mary encounters that you’ve had. I look almost every day in my coffee and the cream has yet to circle into her face.

      • December 6, 2011 4:29 pm

        Apparently you need to pray more. Me, I pray for a more comfortable couch.

      • December 6, 2011 7:53 pm


  9. December 8, 2011 7:40 pm

    I actually had a birthday cake once made out of a bunch of twinkles placed in the shape of a T. But I will cut my mom some slack. She did have 6 hellions to wrangle up and with my birthday only 4 days after Christmas we were all tired of presents and such.

    • December 8, 2011 8:15 pm

      Score. I can’t believe my mom never did that. She never bought Twinkies as much as I begged and she would be assured the happiest birthday girl on the block if I had a Twinkie cake.

      “T is for Twinkie, that’s good enough for me. Oh, Twinkie, Twinkie, Twinkie starts with T.” Just in case Cookie Monster gets sick of his tired old “C” song.

  10. December 8, 2011 7:43 pm

    p.s. I LOVE shrinky dinks. AND I feel old when people I talk to have no idea what they are.

    • December 8, 2011 8:16 pm

      Not to make you jealous but I got some for my birthday this year.


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