Ah, life in the time of COVID.  We’ve mastered the work from home thing, the endless zoom meetings, the sanitizing your groceries, the at-home workouts, the face masks, the homeschooling, and the developing new skills or hobbies thing.  But in what universe is it fair to have to celebrate a birthday in the middle of a global pandemic and subsequent lockdown – especially when you’re a kid?!?

Well, my son (and countless others I realize) have had the misfortune of having a birthday fall within these strange times.  So, I did what any type-A, over-functioning (a new term I just learned vis a vis Brene Brown), task-master mama would do.  I planned a socially distanced pandemic birthday parade.  I took a “party in a box” and put it in the car for a drive-by celebration.  And I couldn’t have done it without the brilliance and creativity of some other “take care of business” working moms who helped me brand it from the electronic invitation to the hermetically sealed cookie in lieu of cake.

I love the birthday parade thing.  So many people are doing it – I certainly can’t take credit for the idea.  But as with all the parties I throw (my consulting practice crosses over into the event space, and my mar-comms background trained me in branding), I wanted it to have a cohesive look, feel, and theme.  Hard to do when you have zero control over the world situation, have no event venue, and are at the mercy of whoever decides to drive by and honk.  But that didn’t stop me.

Charles and I quickly came up with the “Biohazard Birthday” idea as a theme.  Like all 11-year-old boys, he’s into whatever is gross and “dangerous”, so this spoke to his inner “Plants vs Zombies” mentality and we went with it.  My fellow mom friend Nikki at Elizabeth & Mae made our vision a reality with the cutest electronic invitation that I simply texted out to all of our friends.  She also designed coordinating bag tags that I’ll explain in a bit, stickers to brand the birthday cookies, and yard signs to usher in the string of cars through the parking lot of our townhome.  I tapped another mom friend Brandy at Elevate & Celebrate to create a balloon arch in a chevron pattern to mimic the “hazard” signs you see along the highways, in colors that matched our invitation. She also made the number 11 out of balloons to add to the backdrop.  Finally, Megan at Bakesy Bakeshop, another neighborhood mom who makes edible works of art, took our design and transformed them into cookies – all self-contained in individual cellophane bags – to be handed out in lieu of birthday cake!

Now, back to the bag tags…. Since this was a drive-by party and not a stay and play, I knew party favors would need to look different.  Instead of taking one at the end of the party, we delivered pre-party favors – goodie bags filled with silly string, window paint, streamers, a cowbell, and a bubble gun – to be used in the preparation and during the birthday parade.  I tied the bag tags to the handles and we made it an afternoon outing one day to deliver them to our friends’ houses, ringing the doorbell then dropping the bag on the stoop and running back to the car, to avoid any contact!

The looks on these kids’ faces – first when they came to an empty door to find a goodie bag at their feet; then as they moseyed through our parking lot shooting silly string and bubbles at Charles out the car windows and sunroofs – they were all SO happy to see actual faces IRL after two and a half months of online meets!  It was a delight!  And a welcome distraction from the reality of our times. Even the Amazon delivery guy got in on the water balloon action AND gifted Charles money from his own pocket (sweetest man ever!).

Life in the time of COVID has had its bleak moments, but birthdays are meant to be celebrated and this one was no different.  Charles’ 11th birthday will be one that we never forget.  We were so grateful to everyone who came out to celebrate him – it made us all feel very special and very loved.

Images by Breezy Ritter