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A Drive-By Birthday Party

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

Entire page on their website is dedicated to drive-by birthday party and parade ideas (also listed under social distancing

Entire page on their website is dedicated to drive-by birthday party and parade ideas (also listed under social distancing

Along Comes a Caravan

The cars roll slowly by on this fine Spring day. The drivers find a place along one of four streets intersecting near my home. Traffic is rarely this heavy. Still, the lines of cars are parked and people are exiting them in large numbers.

Seeing this, I have questions: Somebody is having a party during the pandemic? How can this be? Didn't the CDC tell the public to avoid such gatherings?

“What’s going on?” I ask Annie.

“Oh!” she says, glancing out the window. “ You didn’t read the letter? “

About this time, Annie’s mother, Melody, arrives from her unit downstairs. Immediately she takes notice of the cars, and an ever growing congregation heading toward a green house.

“Wow,” she remarks. “That’s amazing, Ready for the balcony?”

“What letter?” I ask, needing to understand what is going on.

“I’ll tell you outside,” Annie says as she grabs her soda from the coffee table and ventures -- with her mother -- to the balcony.

I have no choice but to follow my wife and mother-in-law.

After grabbing a place to sit, we turn our attention to the unfolding event.

Finally, Annie spills the content of the letter: “It's a surprise birthday for Mellie’s son. She asked us to come out to help celebrate it by singing happy birthday to him.”

Social Distancing Hampers Gatherings

Time will tell how far and deep this pandemic will have on our daily lives. What is certain is that adjustments had to be made to each of us. I’m teaching at home (and 900 miles away from my school), via distance learning; we have to go through drive-thru or utilize deliveries for food and other store-bought items; and most importantly, we can’t socially gather in large numbers inside places.

This affects celebrations such as a child’s birthday party. Already, there have been horror stories of people contracting COVID while at house parties (such as the one that happened to a woman in Seattle in March). This pandemic is real.

...there’s nothing there to prohibit celebrating a birthday party in itself.

The current mantra is to stay within six feet from another and to be masked. Additionally, large gatherings are prohibited in certain areas, in Los Angeles County -- where I could’ve been if my school didn’t switch to distance learning -- has sent proclamations to discourage such gatherings.

However, there’s nothing in the CDC or local and state government that prohibit celebrating a birthday party in itself. Simply put, the traditional ways of doing so are too dangerous, at this time. The is where the drive-by birthday party comes into play in our new reality.

Drive-By Gets a Positive Makeover

Not long ago, the term drive-by didn’t have a positive connotation. It was often associated with shootings and gangs. The pandemic changed that. drive-by has been used to describe new ways to do things from the safety of your car.

Drive-bys are everywhere:

  • There’s drive-by pick-up at the local market;
  • drive-by free meals handed out at local schools, and
  • proposed drive-by graduations for students at the end of the year.
Images of Drive-by parties found on Google's search engine.

Images of Drive-by parties found on Google's search engine.

Also, let’s not forget there’s drive-thru at most fastfood places, and the reemerging drive-in theaters, albeit on a smaller more expensive scale than those from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

In addition to all that, drive-bys have become a preferred method for those who want to get tested for COVID. Hospitals in downtown Spokane as well as large venues such as Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles became the site for many of these drive-bys.

Drive-by Birthday Parties Become a Thing

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and where drive-by parties started. Some speculation is that they evolved from charitable organizations such the Make-a-Wish Foundation granting wishes to critically ill children-- especially those with suppressed immune systems and disabilities -- that were either relegated to stay at home or were in the care of a hospital. These celebrations, however, started well before the pandemic.

Whether the idea was spontaneous and cropped up in several places around the globe, the drive-by celebration soon took off during the first months of the pandemic and the lockdown that followed. The concept has proven so popular that there are numerous websites and blogs dedicated to ways and means to celebrate in such fashion.

Google’s search engine are full of sites that proclaim:

  • How to organize a drive-by birthday party;
  • When is the best time for these parties;
  • Drive-by Party themes; and
  • Decorations for the Drive-by party parade.
Originally posted on April 1, 2020 at San Diego Union-Tribute of 104 year-old Ruth Gallivan, believed to oldest Female Marine Veteran in the Western United States.  A drive-by parade was given to her by Honor FIght San Diego.

Originally posted on April 1, 2020 at San Diego Union-Tribute of 104 year-old Ruth Gallivan, believed to oldest Female Marine Veteran in the Western United States. A drive-by parade was given to her by Honor FIght San Diego.

The latter, it needs to be noted, is another name often associated with drive-by parties. And, as several photos posted on the Internet and newspapers, the caravan of cars that do go by tend to look more like a parade. The drivers slowly drive-by with cars festooned with celebratory messages on flags or posters. In many cases, the occupants in the vehicles can be heard cheering or singing well wishes to the target person.

In addition, these drive-by parties are not just for birthday kids or are organized by family members. In many cases, they’ve been for adults and have been coordinated by non-profit organizations.

The Birthday Boy Emerges

The street is filled with people. Most are masked and doing their best to distance themselves from one another. No doubt, most of them know each other. Many neighbors are outside, too. They stand on their lawns or (like us) are on their balconies.

The door to Mellie’s house opens. Mellie and her 13-year-old son, Jessie, emerge to an uproarious fanfare. Jessie is stunned, he hugs his mother, not out of fear, but out of joy that he can barely contain. Even from my vantage point on the balcony, I can see his smile widen as tears stream from in his eyes.

Hey!” a neighbor sitting in his backyard a few houses away yells. “ It’s going to be my Birthday next week!”

Not long after they step outside, they are joined by his sibling, father, and grandparents. The group stands before the cheering crowd. And they are just as moved as Jessie is.

Things get more festive when we start singing “Happy Birthday”. The family, including Jessie, are beaming!. The singing stops and the cheers and clapping continue.

“Hey!” a neighbor sitting in his backyard a few houses away yells. “ It’s going to be my Birthday next week!”

“Give us the time and day!” Annie yells back. The crowd hearing this erupts in laughter.

Ends Too Soon

The moment comes and goes. After a few more birthday wishes and chants, the crowd starts to disperse. Mellie, Jessie and the rest of their family head indoors. Within a few minutes, the street empties of people and cars. The residence goes back to normal.

Annie, Melody and I remain on the balcony. We take in the cool breeze and blue skies of this Spring day. It’s hard to believe that on this day, the pandemic is raging like a bitter storm.

However, for a brief moment, we can forget what's going on, and capture a moment that makes us feel glad to be alive.

a-drive-by-birthday-party

Work Cited

© 2021 Dean Traylor

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