Frankie’s First Birthday Party (Not His Own)

Chloe Candles 1
Originally uploaded by silverzephyr.
This weekend, Frankie went to his first birthday party at the infamous Chuck E. Cheese (or is it Chuckie Cheese?) pizza joint down the street. Grandma, Frankie and I left Grandpa behind as we rolled with a relatively good-humored Frankie, in his new blue and white Easter-themed overalls, to neighbor Chloe’s 3rd year celebration. Our offerings: a mix of “educational” (i.e. a Walter the Farting Dog sequel) with the ridiculous and unnecessary (a plastic duck bubble maker) and a princess something-or-other from Grandma for good measure. The building is dumpy-looking, and situated next to a run-down Ross discount store. Not that it matters to the hundred or so greasy-fingered kids running around in a space crammed with whirring token-operated games.

There were five other parties going on around us, with tables set up for each honoree in front of the “stage” where the Chuck E. Cheese band performs. Much like a birthday party staple from my childhood called Showbiz Pizza (“Where A Kid Can Be A Kid!”), there are large-scale animatronic creatures on stage which awkwardly move and “play” music. Due to some exposed wiring (drummer Mario’s face is half open!) as well as audible grinding ever time their limbs move, these animals aren’t particularly believable. In fact, they are downright frightening. It seems as if it’s only matter of time before there is some sort of freak lighting storm that causes their insides to go haywire and become…ALIVE! At which point they will jump from the stage and kill us all.

But none of that seemed to bother the kids, who were more interested in climbing on the stage and jumping off than watching the band. Frankie did surprisingly well, given the level of noise and commotion. He’s too little for all of the activities, but we did sit at a video game and hit the buttons for a while and he enjoyed watching “whack-a-mole”. He was also fascinated by the Mario robot’s large blinking drum and everyone’s drinks. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Frankie’s undying interest in bottles, cups and mugs. If you take a drink of something, he wants to mimic the action. He’s got the water bottle down, and is currently trying to get at Grandpa’s Budweiser.

We stuck around to see Chloe blow out the candles on her Scooby Doo cake and watch the very brief appearance of Mr. Chuck E. Cheese himself. The portion of the stage with the animatronic Chuck E. is curtained and someone in full Chuck E. regalia descends onto the floor and karaokes a few songs. Partygoers dance around, while several teenage employees awkwardly perform a limp choreographed dance. I was relieved when Frankie started to get restless because I was ready to go as well. All in all, the kids attending were genuinely happy and amused.

I expect that after a few parties, I will overcome my fear of electronic animals and Crisco-soaked pizza. But Frankie’s first birthday will be held in our backyard and will not involve any large mice.


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