Miriam attended her first American birthday party on Saturday. She was previously a guest at Natalie's birthday party in Amman, and then later in the summer, Natalie's sister Tina's party.
But the neighborhood-kids-in-the-kitchen birthday parties she attended in Jordan could not compare with what she experienced on Saturday. That's because this party (for a 3-year-old friend) was at Chuck E. Cheese.
I'll admit that I was nervous when I received the invitation. The boy's mother is a good, trusted friend of mine, so it's not that I felt the need to question her judgment. But I haven't been inside of a Chuck E. Cheese "restaurant" in at least 17 years, maybe longer. I had all these flashbacks of animatronic animals who were missing major portions of their bodies lurching around unnaturally while singing "Happy Birthday Boy or Girl." Then I remembered that that was from an episode of The Simpsons, and so there was probably nothing to worry about.
But it turns out that I wasn't that far off. There were animatronic animals lurching about on a stage positioned uncomfortably close to the dining area. And the animatronic Chuck E. Cheese himself was missing the back of his head (though he didn't catch on fire like he did on The Simpsons).
The toys were also pretty much as I remembered them, complete with abrasive sound effects and lots of flashing lights. There was no ball pit, though - have those been outlawed in America?
In the end, I think Miriam had a great, if occasionally overstimulating, time. I was the one who had a problem overcoming the unwholesome juxtaposition of "playing on germy toys" with "eating pizza immediately afterward."
And it was definitely worth it for this picture we took at Chuck E. Cheese's Sketch Booth:
My friends, you will never see a worse picture of Miriam Damascus. The saddest part is that you can tell she's trying so hard. (In case you're wondering, I'm looking up at the screen to see if the camera had taken the picture yet. Apparently, it hadn't. I don't know how I missed the beep amid all the chaotic background noise.)
After all the games she played, Miriam had a whopping 12 tickets. She traded them in for a cheap plastic ring. It is currently her favorite possession.
Thank you, Chuck E. Cheese.