Birthdays & Being Humble


I was able to get out into my studio last night to get started on Noah’s first birthday invitation. I am making a relief print of a monkey holding a cup-cake with a candle. Noah has a stuffed monkey that he loves and since Erin and I were far too tired to come up with better theme we went with the monkey.

Making a relief print is a fairly simple but a bit labor intensive process that involves cutting the image out of a piece of linoleum block, braying ink onto said image then laying a piece of paper on the block and pressing hard enough so that the image transfers. I readily admit it may be a bit much for a first birthday invitation but I am an artist after all, and it was a good excuse to get a small printing press.

All of this birthday business, and how I may be going over the top for something that the birthday boy is not going to remember, got me thinking about the parties I remember as a child and the lengths people go through to impress others. We had fairly simple parties, if we had a party at all. My parents would pick up the Mask party pack, or whatever happened to be my favorite toy at the time, with the paper table cloth, plates and napkins; maybe my cake would have some matching decorations that never tasted as good as they looked. My Dad would decorate the living and dinning room with streamers and signs that were kept in the birthday box the rest of the year. That is in stark contrast to a birthday party I worked shortly before we were married. I had taken a second job at one of the top catering companies in Vermont so that I could afford an engagement ring that did not come from a gumball machine. When catering we wore black pants, white shirt, black tie, and a white apron. We generally worked high-end weddings, but we also did parties, mostly around the holiday season. One Saturday afternoon we catered a birthday party for a one-year-old with a staff of three waiters and one chef . There were passed hors d’oeuvres, two different kinds of passed hors d’oeuvres! For someone who poops in their pants. The house we were at was not large and the area we were passing in was so small that we kept bumping into each other. This, mind you,was before the main course. Most of the people who showed up did not even have children and I think a couple of people had left the kids at home. When the husband walked in the door he took one look at us in our white shirts and bow ties bumping into each other with silver trays full of food and his jaw hit the floor. You could see the terror in his eyes, yet he said nothing, he just walked over to one of the cabinets pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniels and poured himself a very large drink.

This kind of behavior by parents amazes me, and it makes me shudder at the thought as to what it is they are teaching their children. Erin and I both came from humble and modest families where we were taught to work hard and to be thankful for what you have. We plan to pass these values on to Noah. That is far more important than showing off to your friends or trying to impress people you want to be your friends. We do not want Noah to think that just because his mom is a doctor, he can get anything he wants. If his dad makes millions from a monkey birthday card that is a different story entirely. But the bottom line is that we want to teach Noah to be humble and to work hard.. Though we will be able to give him all that our parents gave us, with a bit more ease, it still does not give him the right to take it for granted or us the right to throw money away on ludicrous things.

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