The orange herring moon is rising, and you know what that means: It’s time to celebrate my son Elijah’s fifth year on this earth!
This year, Elijah wanted to throw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed party. Obviously, that was completely out of the question. Before you ask, I don’t know where he heard about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Things slip through cracks sometimes, even when you meticulously enshrine your home as a strict media-free zone. Initially, as you might imagine, I was pretty disturbed by the request, but I’ve come to terms with it, and I’ve moved on. Since we don’t subscribe to the idea of age classification in our family, or the idea of mutants, or the idea of martial arts of any kind (not in an Orientalist way, of course; it’s the violence I take issue with), we settled on a turtle-themed party as a compromise.
Elijah asked if we could have actual turtles at the party, and of course I told him that was absurd. One of my foundational life principles is that animals (such as turtles) cannot consent. I asked Elijah how he would feel if he was just swimming happily in a swamp one day and he was plucked out of the swamp and put in a glass cage to be gazed at by human children. Elijah said that would never happen because he can’t swim. I told him he COULD swim if he believed in his heart he could swim. Then he asked if he could go to the pool, and I practically had a heart attack because immersing yourself in chlorine is basically inviting cancer to make a home in your skin. Anyway, no turtles will be at the party. Unless they CHOOSE to come to the party! Ha ha!
Per the theme, please bring one GREEN potluck dish to share. A few expectations around this: no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, of course. No green food coloring; please only select foods that are NATURALLY green. No pistachios. You can’t be too careful with nuts, and some of you are probably out there thinking that it would be cute to bring pistachios. Plenty of children die at the mere SMELL of ANY nut, and I’d just rather not take the chance. Nothing pre-wrapped, please. Think of the environment! A celebration of birth should not come at the expense of the earth. I just thought of that rhyme—pretty good, huh? And this last one might seem like kind of a weird one, but no square-shaped foods. I’m experimenting with only exposing Elijah to curved lines for a while. His spiritual guidance consultant says that might soften some of his aggressive tendencies.
There will be an option of taking a leisurely stroll to Turtle Creek about halfway through the party. It is true that as of now, there have never been any actual turtles sighted in Turtle Creek. I looked it up and apparently the creek was named that after Nathaniel Turtle, who discovered it while he was trying to find his sister’s wedding reception in 1984 and got kind of lost in the woods. I don’t think he died or anything. I think the story is that he just asked around about what the creek was called and people were kind of like, “No one has named that creek,” so he just went for it. But you never know where a turtle might show up! Ask the universe for a turtle, and sometimes the universe delivers. I told Elijah that, and he said he was asking the universe for a better family. Ha ha! He’s pretty sarcastic sometimes. The consultant says he’s very advanced, that’s for sure.
Anyway, for the stroll, we’ll be taking the slightly longer wheelchair-accessible route. I didn’t invite anyone in a wheelchair, but I wanted to make sure that people in wheelchairs would feel safe coming to the celebration if they heard about it last-minute. It’s not that I intentionally didn’t invite people in wheelchairs. I just don’t know any people in wheelchairs who live near us right now. There used to be Sarah Baker, but she moved to Connecticut last year (I do keep in touch with her, though). If you know anyone in a wheelchair who is interested in coming to this party, you can feel free to invite them! If not, that’s OK, just bring comfortable shoes.
Please, don’t bring any gifts for Elijah. It’s important for him to understand that the real presents in life have to do with presence in life. I didn’t think of that of that myself, but I saw it on a bumper sticker and I really liked it. To celebrate Elijah’s life, I’d prefer he experience what a sunrise looks like, or what it sounds like when a baby giggles. That sort of thing. Even cards send the wrong idea.
Which reminds me: I’m discouraging the use of the phrase “Happy Birthday” at this event. I don’t believe in the idea of uncomplicated emotions such as “happiness” or “sadness”; furthermore, the word “birthday” suggests that there was only ONE day that a person is born. In fact, we are reborn ALL THE TIME! Elijah likes to say that he wishes he could be reborn as an orphan, because even that would be better than living in our family. I guess that’s a little hurtful. But it DOES suggest that Elijah cares about orphans, so that’s a start.
Finally, feel free to invite your offspring, if you have any. I did not explicitly invite anyone Elijah’s age, and he seems to like people who self-identify as “children.”
Sophie Johnson is the editor-in-chief of the humor/nonfiction magazine Neutrons/Protons, and has been published in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Hairpin, Rookie Magazine, The Nation, and plenty more.