If you know any young girls, you know about the importance of princesses. Like movie stars and models, they are coveted for their beauty, wit, ability to land a prince and their fashion sense. And not even Buckingham Palace has more of them than Disney. I remember loving Cinderella. Based on a story from the first century B.C. and perfected in the 1600’s, Cinderella went from being a slave girl covered in ash to the Disney version with magical pumpkins and a fairy godmother. I liked her because she had my hair color and a pretty dress.
I’ve know my friend, Angela, since high school and her daughter, Julia, since she was born. We’ve always made a fairly big fuss over Julia’s birthday and stretched it out over the course of Thanksgiving week. After celebrating the actual birthday, the school birthday and the Thanksgiving birthday, Angela and Richard threw Julia a big birthday bash at a an indoor playground called Under the Sea.
During the week, you can bring your kids there to play but on weekends, it’s the private party place to be, an exclusive club where you’re either “on the list” or not. L.A. is a city of velvet ropes and intimidating doormen so it’s good preparation for later in life. The walls are painted whimsically with pirates and underwater scenes. There’s a bouncy house, lots of slides, tunnels and tumbling mats. There are games ranging from foosball to air hockey and you can even invite characters to play with the kids and do face painting.
Julia wore her Ariel dress, a mermaid like gown with shimmering fabric and plenty of sparkles topped with a matching headband. She was delighted when the Ariel character showed up and took the kids on a wonderful journey of searching for Julia’s present, lifting her on a parachute and doing magic tricks. When the faces had all been painted, Julia was seated in a throne and served pizza and salad before blowing out the candles on a sea-blue cake topped with Ariel sitting on a half shell.
So many exclusive parties in Hollywood are driven by movies and celebrity and this one was no different – “Ariel” was the star of the show and Julia as Ariel was the belle of the ball. But no one at this party cared if the movie was going to “open.” We were all there to celebrate Julia. No one was there to steal a client or slip someone a script. We were there to run around in socks and play like 4 year olds. Some of these kids, including Julia, had been students of mine during my brief stint teaching preschool so I was also there to watch children grow, to see who they were becoming.
When I was Julia’s age and living in Japan, my parents threw me a party that included a day at the pool. Later, we all ate cake, a doll dressed in a cake ball gown covered in fancy yellow icing. I never forgot that cake, how fun the party was, how special and lucky and princess-like I felt. I hope Julia remembers this party and how special and celebrated she was.
I will remember the day not just for the fun the kids had, but for the chance to spend time with Angela’s family, my family away from family since I was 17. After the party, some of us headed to The Grove, a shop-filled town center with Christmas decorations so elaborate, they include fake snow falling at night.
Julia first chose the Mac store. I was surprised until she led me to a low-lying table covered in kid-friendly computers with games galore. As it was the Saturday after Black Friday, all the computers were taken but Julia was content to wait patiently for her turn at a screen. I checked out the new iPads. After, she led me to Barnes and Noble, a gargantuan 3 story bookstore.
At this point, I should mention that I had a suitcase with me as I was dropped at the party by my friend, Jessica, and was being picked up at The Grove by my friend, Danica. The kid-friendly computers were up a long lucite staircase at the Mac store and the children’s book section was, of course, on the 3rd floor of the bookstore. In a city where people care deeply about appearances, I was the woman with a rolling suitcase in one hand and a face-painted, pink fur coat wearing mermaid on the other. And I was loving it.
Barnes and Noble’s kid section has a stage where Julia and I have spent many hours sitting and reading. She seemed to not notice that at least 50 other kids and parents were running around. She grabbed a couple of books and snuggled in for some storytelling. My throat was as dry as the desert air I’d been breathing for almost a week, but it was otherwise sheer bliss. Though I never doubt my move to New Orleans, I do miss my longtime friends and their wonderful children.
We headed to The Farm to have fancy teas and coffees with the rest of the family.
It was all I’d flown 1800 miles to return to; family, friends and yummies from The Farm. I brought home some of their extraordinary brownies, the best I’ve ever had, and can only recommend that you judge them for yourself.
Danica arrived and we did a little window shopping before heading out of the city and into the East. I’d heard of Whittier, it was one of the many places I knew nothing about after almost 18 years in Los Angeles. The next day, I’d wake up there.