Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A note from a Clark Griswold protege on birthdays, family memories, and a strange affiction

I have four days to plan the First Birthday Party of the Decade.
I have a tutu to make, some hairbows to glue, shopping to do, brownies and other gourmet goodies to to bake and decorate, a house to clean and then decorate to the hilt with some decorations I will be crafting and assembling in my “free time”, and a million other little things to do.
Of course I could go to Wal-Mart and buy a cake.  Of course I could go and buy all of the decorations and a little dress for Hootie and even some snacks and goodies.  I could lay all of that out for our friends and they would love it.  It would turn out to be a great first birthday party.  No one would think less of me, and I would be sane and easy-going all week.  Nothing wrong with that at all.
But there is a problem with that.
This is my curse:  I have a bad habit of going over-board.  I have a habit of getting an idea in my head and being unable to shake the picture of perfection out of my thoughts long enough to realize that I am even doing it.  I have this grand idea of what a first birthday party (or Christmas eve, or Thanksgiving, or summer BBQ, at my house “should” be like.  Streamers, homemade snacks, handmade d├ęcor and everything in its place. 
Oh, I want it to appear effortless – “Oh, this? Pfft – it’s nothing!!”
It is a hang-up of mine.
And it doesn’t always serve me well.
In the past, it has ended up with me disappointed in a perfectly gorgeous gathering/event/favor for a friend/project/Wednesday night dinner/you name it because it wasn’t what I envisioned. 
I call this “The Clark Griswold Effect” – in other words, the planner of an event (in my case this is Hayden’s birthday party, in Clark’s case, it’s an “old fashioned family Christmas” or an awesome family vacation in the Family Truckster) builds something up so much in their mind that there is no way that said event could ever live up to the vision - even if everything went right, which (as you know if you have ever seen old Clark in action) it never does.
If you are not familiar with Clark Griswold, he is the over-zealous patriarch of his family.  He (like myself) sets lofty goals for his family gatherings and events in an attempt to make beautiful memories for his children.  For poor Clark (and often myself) these goals end in disaster or at the very least disappointment.  Clark (okay, and I) just want everything to be perfect, and we refuse to admit that “perfect” isn’t real and that nothing could ever live up to our expectations.  Thus, “The Clark Griswold Effect.”

TCGE pretty well rules my life.  I guess you could say that I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the memories making and what I expect of myself.  Clark and I are kindred spirits.
I am working on trying to curb this little Clark problem of mine.  I am telling myself that all that matters is that Hootie has fun and that we celebrate the best year ever and that I am still good enough – even if my party isn’t flawless magazine quality.
 Actually, this birthday is a scaled down version of my original vision, even if this scaled down version still includes a four day long To-Do list.  Hey, I said I am working on it. 
Clark Griswold and I are just gluttons for punishment, I guess – we both just keep on coming back for more.  It is in us – eternally optimistic, always trying to find the bright-side, over-the-top visionaries we are.  We may both be suffering from TCGE at every turn of our lives, but we both have the same simple reason for our affliction – we love our families.  We want them to grow up and look back on their childhoods and remember how great their birthday/Christmas/vacation/whatever was. 
Which, I know deep within, that they will - no matter what their birthday party or vacation is like  – because the love that Clark and I have for our kids is bigger than any birthday party or vacation could ever express.   People like me and Mr. Griswold approach everything – including loving our families – with that same lofty expectation of ourselves. I guess that there are some situations where being afflicted with the over-zealous approach to life and love for family that always ends with the “The Clark Griswold Effect” is a good thing.  I hope so.  TCGE isn’t something you can just shut off – take it from me. 
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go make a tutu and some handmade decorations for Hayden’s “fun, old fashioned family birthday party….. :) 
Love Always, Clark Griswold Jr.


  1. Clark is my favorite. The party will be fantastic. The best part of the 1st birthday party...its the one that you spend the most time and energy on and the they dont even remember!! Cant wait. Do the grown-ups get tutu's?

  2. LOL you can have a tutu, em. but only you. hahaha!

  3. After all these years, you have helped me figure out whats wrong with me.

    I love the decoration you did, she is a lucky girl.

    and the story is very entertaining!!!

  4. lol becki! are you a clark, too!? there are many more of us out there than i ever knew!!