This time last year, my daughter’s birthday party involved 20 children under 5 let loose in a forest.
It was slightly heart-stopping but brilliant – a reassuringly successful zero waste birthday party, even if it did mean we were still making marshmallows from scratch at 2am the night before to toast over the campfire.
There was no party bag tat, no plastic decorations or single-use cups and plates. And no manic clear up of the village hall before the next party came rolling in.
Happy days, job done, green credentials upheld with few if any of the compromises that have in the past left our children confused and upset that they aren’t doing or having or experiencing things in same way as their friends. The kind of conversations that keep parents up at night with the guilt.
This year the party was inevitably held over Zoom from the back garden. And it was a bit magic. Everyone turned up, even those people from far away who hadn’t been able to attend ‘real life’ parties before. Everyone wore party hats, they all sang at the right moment, the kids all got metal rainbow pin badges in the post in lieu of party bags.
There was no clear up, a lot less stress and so much thought put into the gifts and messages and gestures. We were blown away by the efforts made and the time taken by people who understandably don’t necessarily share our approach.
That morning our daughter found little packages of garden flowers on our doorstep and gifts of books once loved by our neighbours’ children – people we barely knew before lockdown.
She was sent parcels covered in homemade wrapping paper tied up with string and tokens for experiences. There wasn’t a dash-for-the-supermarket-on-the-way-to-the-party present in sight because there couldn’t be.
In my hopelessly romantic brain it felt like that scene from The Railway Children when Bobbie – always Jenny Agutter, obviously – goes around a room full of friends and family who give her gifts from their own home, or sing her a song, or a small posy of flowers.
Zero waste on lockdown has certainly presented a few challenges that we haven’t always been sure we’d be able to get around. But sitting in the sunshine as our delighted daughter poured over the huge stack of books that next door had handed over the wall with entirely unnecessary apologies that they were from their own home, we reckoned this particular hurdle had worked out pretty well in the end.