Disclaimer: The following is based on a true story, though the author may have been liberal in her use of the poetic license.
One of the many revelations that accompany adulthood is a growing appreciation of your parents. It is when you live on your own that you realize that clothes don’t pick themselves off the floor, that bills don’t pay themselves. Our parents have seen some serious shit, literally as well as figuratively.
Let’s give some context: the setting is a pretty little café near North Campus. Paper lanterns and arty mosaics adorn the walls. In the midst of this semi-bourgeois environment, clustered in a corner, a microcosm. It is a birthday party for a newly-minted 5 year-old. The table is encircled with mothers and their volley of children, and in the corner is little ol’ me, my possessions held close to my chest. Even as laughter erupts from the other end, the drooling demon baby seated on the table sends my phone flying from my hands and onto the floor, where it falls with a sickening crunch. There is one behind me, climbing my chair and one across me, chocolate smearing its face like war paint. The scene is strangely reminiscent of a horror film, gurgling laughter and satanic screams, emitted at a volume and pitch that seems disproportionate to the tiny body that is the source. The banshee-child’s friend suddenly starts a hip-hop routine on the floor, at which point its mother runs in, shouting apologies and dragging it off.
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is a cakewalk (though why anyone would walk on a cake is beyond me) in comparison. I feel as though all of those women are a little mad, their tired eyes screaming for help, switching between cursorily scolding their children and laughing raucously at one of those Whatsapp jokes.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
*Uhh, so where was I? Oh yeah-*
As I sit in my corner (a different one from where I started, primarily because I wasn’t sure my phone would survive the demon child) in a trance-like state, a terrifying thought crosses my mind- Will I become one of these women? Will my life devolve into a series of mad tea parties? Most importantly- will I have to dress like a hermit for 8 years? A shiver runs down my spine and I look down at my pretty orange dress, a blood-red tiny fingerprint staining the fabric. The delicious tomato-based condiment that I knew and loved took on a sinister symbolism. And then an even more terrifying thought- Was I one of these children?
I learnt a few important lessons that day.
One- Children are bloody scary, and people should refrain from having them for as long as possible.
Two- There is no way I’m spending a chunk of my life cleaning puke stains from my clothes, crayon stains from walls and chocolate stains from demon baby faces.
Three- Appreciate the fact that your mum managed to stay more or less sane despite the ordeal you put her through. Seriously. Maybe also get her an appointment with a psychologist.
And finally, never, ever go to a kid’s birthday party.