Barney visits for birthday

Published 9:00pm Saturday, July 26, 2014

The room was somewhat empty. The birthday party guests hadn’t arrived yet. I was lying on a bench in the foyer at our house on Becker Street. The bench was wooden and sat straight up. The cushion was pink, blue and green striped. Most would say it wasn’t a particularly comfortable bench. Maybe because I grew up with it, I was accustomed to it because I felt just fine there. My grandmother sat on the bench with me.

I was always a low-energy child. The most active I was growing up was in dance class or when I played with my Barbies, but even the most lethargic child has at least one thing he or she would jump up for. And for me, it was Barney.

I still remember seeing Barney walking through that front door. It was a dream come true for toddler Julia. There was the purple giant that I spent my afternoons with.

Barney, who was really my Uncle Clint, kept having to convince us to let him take breaks. I may not have been too happy about that, but it was July, and it was hot. Getting to follow and badger Barney may have been the highlight of my childhood.

The next year (at least I think it was the next year), I had an Aladdin-themed birthday party. There was a sandbox with big plastic jewels buried deep. That was the last party at the house on Becker, affectionately known in my family as the “Little House.”

My family moved around the corner to the “Fat House” (I was very creative as a child). In my child’s mind, the house had ceilings that went up forever. It was the kind of house that held secrets and tried to talk to you at night. The creaks never scared me, but instead were part of a conversation. Part of me just knew there was an armoire like C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” but I couldn’t ever find it.

I remember having a dance birthday party that started in that house. The party favors were of course pink parasols. Then we moved the party to Show Stoppers. Although now that I think about it, it may have been two different years.

Another year, I had Pocahontas at my party. She sang outside of her teepee.

As I get older, each birthday is a little less magical, a little less memorable. It’s not necessarily by neglect, but sometimes it’s by choice. Last week, getting dressed up to go to dinner was all I wanted. Reilly and I ate at Tabella’s. The baked ziti and a glass of pinot noir were all I asked for.

During the day, I created a <cTypeface:Italic>Mindy Project <cTypeface:Plain> and <cTypeface:Italic>Parks and Recreation <cTypeface:Plain>marathon via Hulu. I could have asked for stuff or things, but the truth is I have a storage unit full of stuff and things I don’t need right now. What I don’t have a whole lot of is down time and chill nights out.

I’m sure in a few years I won’t remember this birthday or the last. And I don’t think any birthday will be as vivid as my third with Barney walking through my house.

Mama liked to go a little overboard on the birthday party themes, but we always had fun. Her goal was to capture the essence of childhood. The excitement that comes when everything is new and cares and worries are few.

One day, I’m sure I’ll be the mom that overindulges on the birthday parties. One day, I’ll be the mom stressed about whether or not anyone will actually show up. Maybe one day I’ll be able to “find” my child’s favorite character, and I hope even one moment remains captured in his or her mind to remind them where they came from.

But for now, I’ll enjoy the low-key birthdays. I’ll relax while relaxing is still an option.

Julia V. Pendley is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. You may email her at or mail a letter to her at Julia V. Pendley, Lifestyles Editor, P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0551.