my sister came to pick me up at 11:30am on this wet and dreary, to go to the party city store and pick up some birthday balloons for my mother's 70th birthday. my sister told me she gave me mother a knitting bag but my mother didn't like it and told her to return it. because of this, my sister said she wasn't going to make a birthday cake for my mother, and was going to buy one instead, as a protest. i told her that was a stupid idea and that she should return the present and make the cake, as originally intended.
it's been a while since i've been to a party supplies store. i feel like the last time was back in the 90's, when there used to be one at the waverley oaks road mall in waltham. we went to party city on soldiers field road in brighton, close to the highway IHOP i always see when i take the bus down to new york city. it was like glimpsing an unknown world of party supplies, a place that carried every conceivable form of celebratory materials, whether it's a birthday, a wedding, a bridal shower, a sports victory, a baby birth, and whatever holiday is right around the corner.
my sister looked for a cake stand while i went in search of candles. we got one of those singing flaming candles for $7. i asked the girl at the cash register about number balloons for birthdays, she told us the aisle to find them, but we didn't see any. so i clarified: i wanted jumbo number balloons. i think my sister was even surprised, she thought we were just getting traditional round balloons with "70" printed on them. foil number balloons they had plenty of in stock, in various sizes and colors. the largest was nearly 5ft tall and wouldn't fit inside of a normal car. i decided to go with the 3ft tall balloons in silver. typically they're $13.50 a number, but because somebody had cancelled an order of a 7 balloon already inflated, the manager told us he could let us have it for half off, and just inflate another one for 0. feeling generous, the manager also gave us half off on the other balloon as well.
i was really scared taking the balloons out of the store. can't remember the last time i had a balloon, probably not since i was a little kid, and more than likely i accidentally let it go in the air. the two balloons could barely fit inside my sister's car, and blocked the windows so she couldn't use her rear-view mirror. needing a place to stash the balloons before the dinner at my aunt's place later tonight, i called my aunt asking if she could bring over the balloons now. she was about to go out and said we could leave them under a tarp in her backyard, but the cold temperature could damage the balloons, not to mention being weighed down under a tarp on a rainy day. so she said she could wait for us to arrive, but asked us to get my mother a tiara as well. so we went back inside and grabbed a birthday tiara ($10), one that supposedly lights up.
from brighton we drove up to arlington to drop off the balloons. they seemed to be sagging a bit, but the party city manager told us this was natural, that they tend to shrink in cold temperature, but once they warm up indoors they'll puff right up and float. he also said they should stay inflated and floating for 3-5 days.
my sister drove me back to cambridge, but stopped at the fresh pond trader joe's to grab some mascarpone cheese and flowers for the cake. i finally returned home by 1pm. i called my mother, who told me my sister wasn't going to make a birthday cake, but i told her i convinced her to change her mind. my mother didn't know we went to party city to get her birthday balloons, so i lied and said my sister came to get some cake making ingredients and i went with her to trader joe's to get some snacks.
the rest of the day i was just waiting for evening to come around. my aunt said to meet at her house at 5:30pm. my sister was finished with her cake by 4pm, and said she wanted to go to arlington early. i told her to arrive here at 4:45pm, and that i'd order some chinese takeout from zoe's at 4:30pm. my mother told me to get the two dishes we got back in early december for my sister's birthday: dried-fried smoked ham (干鍋臘肉) and pan-fried pork intestines (干扁大腸). i ordered directly from the restaurant, getting a 5% discount because i paid in cash. the cashier - a young chinese girl with blonde girl whom i've never seen before - put on gloves before accepting my money. she told me my food would be ready in 15 minutes. my sister arrived right on time, i threw my bag into her car before returning to zoe's to pick up my order.
i thought there'd be a lot of traffic getting from cambridge to arlington, but there was zero congestion. i think maybe because it's a slow week and a lot of people have it off. we got there in about 17 minutes. it took my parents a bit longer to leave the cafe. they closed early at 5pm, but didn't leave until 5:30pm with my 2nd aunt in tow. they hit even less traffic, getting to arlington in less than 10 minutes.
my mother was surprised by her birthday tiara, and even more so with the jumbo number birthday balloons. the tiara lights up, but only a few LED's in the front, strobing enough to cause potential seizures so i turned it off. matthew made all of my mother's favorites: baked nachos and duck. they also brought out the baijiu, but without zhangyu's help, they weren't able to empty the bottle, saving the rest for another time.
when it came time for cake, my aunt also brought out some raspberry-mango sherbet she'd made. we put the singing candle on the cake and lit it up for the musical spinning pyrotechnics. afterwards my aunt gave me mother one final surprise: a box that dispensed cash! my mother said she'd seen something similar back in taiwan, when somebody gave my grandmother one for mother's day.
we finally left by 8:20pm. my parents returned home since my father had to drive down to the airport later and pick up my sister's godmother returning from taiwan. my sister gave my 2nd aunt and me a ride back to cambridge. it was foggy up in arlington heights, but as we descended into cambridge, the fog was gone.