This weekend saw me in Reading for what was my first baby shower party. No, not my baby (don’t be silly), one of my nieces, her second, due this month. Baby showers have crossed to the UK from the USA. I’d often wondered what goes on at these parties as we had no such thing years ago when I was expecting. I knew gifts for the baby were given; and that, I have to admit, was the hardest part. What to buy? The party, held at my sister’s home (the anxious grandmother) was to be a surprise. I was the excuse to get my niece there, on the pretext I was in Reading for a bookclub reading thingy and was stopping by to have lunch with my sisters and our mother and wanted Jenny to join us.
I arrived to a house of frenzied balloon blowing, hanging of banners and the making a “throne” for the pregnant mum, everyone trying to get everything ready on time. With the exception of my sisters, mum and me, everyone hid in the dining room when Jenny and her husband and daughter arrived, about twenty friends and family squeezed in including Jenny’s in-laws, who had driven up from Hayling Island, Jenny’s dad, and an excited 8-year old, ready to surprise Jenny at the given moment that never came. The 8-year-old couldn’t wait, bless him, and the sliding doors to the dining room burst open, too soon for my camera to be ready to snap the look on Jenny’s face. It was a picture sadly not captured for posterity in the family album.
Menfolk then making a quick exit (they didn’t take much shooing), a room full of noisy, laughing and chatting women opened more wine and attacked the nibbles, all eyes on the fabulous cupcakes so colourful, so cute, so very good to eat, made by a wonderful cake maker, Jane Swain. Then came the gifts.
My niece’s 7-year-old daughter took charge deciding the order of gifts to be opened and helping with all the unwrapping. The presents were lovely, from rattles and plastic bath ducks, to books, darling sleep suits that said “I ♥ My Mum” and “I ♥ My Dad” (I want one), a special scroll box for keeping the birth certificate safe, to pampering gifts for mum-to-be and a thoughtful one for Jenny’s daughter: a picture frame proclaiming “World’s Best Sister”. Asked what she would prefer, a little brother or a little sister, the expectant sister replied, “I don’t care. Whatever it is, I shall torment it!” And no doubt she will. Often.
Then came a version of Mr & Mrs. Jenny’s husband had been secretly asked ten questions about their relationship and forthcoming event, and mum-to-be had to see how many she could answer correctly. She got most right. One most of us got wrong. Do you know what sense a baby develops first? Apparently it’s hearing. We all thought it would be smell.
More refills before we were cajoled into teams and given cotton bibs and colouring pens, the idea being to decorate the bibs, the best would be chosen by Jenny and receive a prize. Jenny’s mum-in-law grabbed my arm. “You’re with me!” I think this was because I am an artist. “Kit, pair with me,” pleaded my sister, Jenny’s mum. “Too late!” Now, I can paint but I cannot draw, least of all with felt tips on cotton, but one did one’s best with pens that by the time they came round to me didn’t work very well (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). One team’s effort was a small pile of crushed nibbles splattered on the bib. “It represents sick,” being the explanation. If there had been a prize for artistic license, it would have won. The real prize? Oh, yes – sweets, which were given to the children.
After more refills, we were given cards on which to guess the details of the baby: date and time born, weight, sex, eyes, hair colour, etc; which Jenny will keep and let us know who came closest. Later, when her friends departed for the pub, poor Jenny looked forlorn, wishing she could join them. Asked what she was most looking forward to after the birth, she said, “Wine. Wine and cheese.”
So, that’s a baby shower. Now I know. A lot of fun and generosity, a lot of noise and laughter, and I think a jolly good idea. Then again, any excuse for a get together in my family is always a good idea. Now hurry up, Jenny, we are all waiting to see who guessed right. Boy or girl?