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Challenge: Happy Birthday!

Scavenger hunts, movie parties: My parents made birthdays magical for Barbara and me

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Some of my fondest childhood memories can be traced back to Nov. 25, the date of my birth. In fact, I've always been someone who relishes the day of my birth. It’s a special day that I share with my twin sister, Barbara — and it’s also always been so special because of my parents.


My parents were the creative birthday types who wanted to make the day magical for Barbara and me. One year, we had a “movie” party. This consisted of us using hand-painted backdrops (I still have no idea where they came from), splitting into several groups equipped with an adult leader, and then writing and filming movies. Then, of course, we voted on whose was the best. (A healthy dose of competition runs in the family!)

Then there was the year we had a “scavenger hunt party.” Again: teams of 10-year-olds armed with Polaroid cameras, racing around our neighborhood searching for things like a stone lion that my dad had painted gold just for the occasion.


And they continued every year: “doll-house museum party,” “surprise pancake breakfast,” “mystery party” and so on. It was never really about gifts, although I am sure we received some. But, ask me now, and I can't remember one of the gifts.

I can remember — in shocking detail — some of those hilarious skits (in one of them I sang “Climb Every Mountain”), the details of the scavenger hunt, and the way my parents made us feel unconditionally loved. Nov. 25 was a day they thought worthy of wild celebration.


When my daughter Mila was born, I couldn’t help but want to emulate what my parents had done for us: the way they made that day so magical; the way they had created such lasting memories. For her first birthday — (one she will not remember) — we hosted a cowboy and senoritas party. Thirty babes dressed in their finest Western wear took over our small New York City apartment.

For her second birthday, Mila said to me in her sweet voice: “I want an Elmo party.” And so, we decorated in red and yes … we got a large Elmo to make an appearance.


Now we are a month away from her third birthday and I am astonished by how fast time goes, and how smart and sassy and wildly funny she has become. And every now and then, when we are snuggling before bed, she still asks me, "Do you remember when Elmo came to my birthday?" Oh yes, I remember.

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