Left to right: Model train exhibit; waiting for the plane to depart;
On Tuesday, January 5, Leo turned three years old. I had a hard time deciding whether or not to do a kid party for him because on the one hand, I always do kid parties for the kids. Lest he feel as though he is being slighted for being a second child, I fretted about not having one for him. On the other hand, while we have many playgroup friends, he only really has one buddy who is his age, and very few others who are even close to his age. When I contemplated putting out an ad on Craigslist - "three year olds needed for role of friends at a three year old party" - I decided maybe I could come up with something equally fun. And so I did! We celebrated Leo's birthday with a "Public Transportation Celebration."
It began at 9:30 when my parents arrived at our house for the adventure. Aidan played hooky from school and Jeff was not scheduled to work, so the seven of us bundled up and grabbed our Passports. Our first stop was to visit my dad's friend, Don, whose hobby is model trains. I expected to see a few trains on a track about the size of a table or so, no biggie. We walked into his basement, roughly the size of our own, and were shocked to see 8 years' worth of work on the model train exhibit! At first, I thought "Oh, that's clever -he added mirrors to make it look bigger." But oh, no, the track extended way back into the basement and was built in around the rafters and pillars. He had three large trains on one huge set of tracks, complete with towns, mountains, bridges, rivers, lakes, and landscapes, as well as a smaller scale model train that was still a work in progress. We spent over half an hour watching the trains and still, we had to drag those kids out of there! I was immediately buoyed by the plan for the day; we had gotten off to such a good start.
Our next stop was the Charlottesville Airport. It was freezing cold! We stamped our feet and shivered against the wind, but it was well worth it. We saw one small plane take off and another one land, a helicoptor depart, and a huge jet plane take off as the grand finale. Leo was confused why we couldn't simply buy a ticket and hop on board, but I think it appeased him to know that a plane adventure is scheduled for June (to fly to California).
Starving and shivering, we loaded the cars to caravan to lunch at Mellow Mushroom. It felt positively decadent to be eating pizza and drinking beer on a Tuesday with my entire family and my parents. Leo was quite particular about when we could and could not sing "Happy Birthday" to him***, so once he finished eating every bite of his pizza, we were finally allowed to serenade him...
Satiated and sufficiently warmed, we walked to the Trolly stop across the street and were promptly picked up by the free trolly that runs around the UVA grounds and the Downtown Mall of Charlottesville. Leo was literally jumping up and down, shouting, "The trolly! The trolly!" when he caught sight of the next part of our adventure. Once aboard, he stood in the seat and waved to everyone we passed outside. He loved it.
We got off the Trolly at the Downtown Transit Station and hopped aboard Bus #7 to ride back to the Corner. The kids rode for free, and Jeff and I both have UVA ID's, so we rode free, too! Only the old folks had to pay the hefty fee - $0.75 apiece. It was an interesting experience, and I felt like I got a small glimpse of what it might be like to use public transportation regularly in Charlottesville.
The warm, cozy, clean bus delivered us back at Mellow Mushroom's doorstep, where a very contented birthday boy hopped into his carseat and promptly fell asleep. We capped off the day with the birthday boy's favorite meal, Chicken Pot Pie, followed by a train-themed cake. The day was a complete success! I'll never again doubt the idea that family birthday celebrations can be as fun as - or even more fun - than kid parties.
***Side story (or two): Leo is SO much like me. He is fiercely determined, demands his independence, and insists on doing it his own way. This is a blessing and a curse; he exasperates me and evokes my admiration in equal measure. Recently when we were rushing to get to church, Leo refused to let Jeff help him with his socks and shoes. Jeff was trying to remain patient, but the clock was ticking. Leo surrendured, letting Jeff put them on for him, and said to Jeff, "I wish I was more like Annie." Jeff, unsure he'd heard Leo correctly (since Leo's usual term for me is Mommy(!)) asked Leo to repeat himself, and sure enough, he said, "I wish I was more like Annie." In a tone that conveyed that same admiration and exasperation, Jeff responded, "You are like Annie. You're a lot like Annie."
So it should not have come as a surprise, then, how much Leo enjoyed this party, and yet how particular he was about when we were and were not allowed to sing "Happy Birthday." When I was a child, I hated birthday parties - mine and everyone else's. When the kids sang to me, I usually ended up crying. I refused to go to most kids' parties, even my very best of friends. I don't enjoy being the center of attention, and birthday parties are the epitome of that. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, for sure. And for that, I am most grateful... Happy Birthday to you, my Leo Leo.