Julien's mostly virtual first birthday

The boyfriend, Julien, and Ali stop playing to chat with a family member.

As Julien’s first birthday approached, I knew what had to be done.  I started looking up simple cake recipes.  Cake is important to me on a deep level.  But in this case, it was more than just my passion for pastries pushing me forward.  The cake, I knew, was going to be one of the few traditional things we could offer him.

Here in Paris, we're thousands of miles from my American family and friends.  The boyfriend  is French, but, like many Parisians, he’s a transplant.  His family also lives hours from us.  And, also like many Parisians, we’ve experienced the exodus of our local friends (also transplants) back to their native lands over the years.  Today, we have tons of long-distance loved ones, but only a few local acquaintances, plus one couple we see socially on a somewhat regular basis in real life.  

Part of it’s circumstance, and part of it’s choice; we probably could find other Paris-based friends or get to know co-workers or acquaintances better, but as two introverts, we cherish our alone time. The thought of making friends, no matter how valuable or even helpful it might be, exhausts and overwhelms us.  And even then, how close do you have to be to someone to consider them like family, to help each other out even with the challenging task of watching each other’s kids if necessary?  We get by with babysitters and our emergency plan of the boyfriend taking off work if I’m ever too sick to get out of bed, like when I got the flu a few weeks ago.

Still, it’s a lonely life in a lot of ways.  Being from a big Italian/Jewish north New Jersey family makes the sting worse; there, it would be almost impossible to imagine that you’d wake up one day with the flu and not be able to find a relative or in-law who could watch your baby while you recovered.

Most of the cake recipes I looked up were included in articles about a baby’s first birthday.  These articles referred to the party itself, as it’s typically celebrated in the US or in France: with lots of family and friends there to celebrate the milestone.  Since none of our friends in Paris have kids, our “party” was going to consist of me, the boyfriend, Julien, and our cat Ali (who is, lucky for us, the most intriguing, entertaining creature my son knows – no need to consider hiring a clown or anything).

Then again, our families were going to be present, in a way.  It started at 10am, when the boyfriend's mother and brother facetimed us. I hastily threw off my pajamas, put on some clothes, and answered.

The US calls started in the evening.  My brother and sister-in-law, my mother, my father, my stepmom, all while I was trying to bake that aforementioned cake and Julien was getting restless.  When it was ready, we brought it out, my father singing “Happy Birthday” along with us (for the round in English) from the iPad screen that was propped on the table.

We gave Julien a piece of cake and he gleefully smashed it as I took photos and juggled calls, emails, e-cards, and iMessages from family friends and siblings, all while also trying to get back in touch with my mom and one of my aunts, who were having internet connection problems but desperately wanted to see the cake smashing.

Within a few hours, Julien, the boyfriend, and I felt happy, but very tired.     

It’s one of those “What times we live in!” revelations, and I’m still sort of marveling over it: The typical first birthday party seems to be a situation teeming with relatives and a sort of joyful chaos. The parents play host, making sure everyone is comfortable and has what they need.  And that, it turns out, was pretty much exactly what Julien’s first birthday had been like.  Sure, it was mostly virtual – but it was just as full of energy – and just as exhausting.



This post is sort of a birthday gift for Julien, too: if he reads this one day when he’s older, he’ll probably have a good laugh at how amazed I was by the technology of my time, while he fiddles around with his hologram watch and teleports a pizza to his house or something.

Views: 222

Comment by Alysa Salzberg on March 24, 2015 at 3:33pm

Hi guys! I hope you're all doing well.  I'm thrilled to be back here and am looking forward to catching up and reading you guys' posts! 

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on March 24, 2015 at 3:35pm

He is gorgeous. 

Comment by Arthur James on March 24, 2015 at 3:47pm


Sent from beyond....

You can Love and make

a world a better Place.


We're celebrating an

adult's birthday. I gravitate

towards children innocent

Children. They so  Precious.

Comment by Anna Herrington on March 24, 2015 at 3:49pm

Happy Birthday Julien!  He is so so cute ! Love the boyfriend's hair, too  : )

Comment by Cranky Cuss on March 24, 2015 at 4:09pm

I'm going to try to teleport a pizza to you right now ..... Oh well, I guess it didn't work.

Happy first birthday to Julien!  And best wishes to the exhausted parents.

Comment by Poor Woman on March 24, 2015 at 4:24pm

Happy Birthday to your wee one!

And may there be many many more Happy ones to come.

Love the photos

Peace to you


Comment by L in the Southeast on March 24, 2015 at 4:34pm

Oh, my --- a year has passed already?!?!?!?!?  He is too cute for words.  Do I see a lone tooth behind the drool?


Comment by Alysa Salzberg on March 24, 2015 at 5:15pm

Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments, guys!

Jon - Thank you!  He mostly looks like his father. :-)

Art - You are

in my life



I think

I love



JT - Thanks - and the boyfriend says "Thank you" for the hair compliment (he takes his hair very seriously).

Cranky - Thanks for trying to send the pizza.  Someday....

Poor Woman - Thank you!  And peace and healing to you.

Lezlie - That's exactly how I feel!  I can't believe it's gone by so fast.  Also, he actually has a ton of teeth - we're not sure how many because he won't let us check, but when he laughs or grins there's, like, at least five or six on top and five or six on the bottom. He munches little bits of baguette. It's crazy.

Comment by Sheila Luecht on March 24, 2015 at 5:17pm

This warmed my heart! It helped me recall the first birthdays of our precious three. Amazing times. Hydrated pizza anyone?

Comment by nerd cred on March 24, 2015 at 5:46pm

Such a doll! Now it gets more fun all the time, mom & dad!

I enjoyed it when we were away from family and for the kids' birthdays they got to choose the restaurant and invite ONE friend to go out to dinner with the family. For years I've first Skyped, now facetime birthdays and christmas mornings with my granddaughter. One time they just set up a laptop so I could be at her birthday party. Last time, she was in Calif and her grandfather in RI and I in MN joined in singing  and blowing out the candles. I love modern technology! (And can't wait to be able to teleport pizza!)

Judah says Happy Birthday Julien!

(he's taken a liking to guacamole -
 you see what I mean by 'fun')


You need to be a member of Our Salon to add comments!

Join Our Salon


Pen for Hire ( Bathos, Pathos)

Posted by J.P. Hart on June 19, 2019 at 11:23am 3 Comments

Always Out Front.... Anyway

Posted by Robert B. James on June 19, 2019 at 8:34am 1 Comment

One Flew Under Radar

Posted by J.P. Hart on June 18, 2019 at 3:15pm 0 Comments

Tolerance and Bigots

Posted by alsoknownas on June 18, 2019 at 2:20pm 6 Comments

Where Jaws was Filmed

Posted by J.P. Hart on June 18, 2019 at 11:19am 3 Comments

I’m Not A Buddhist

Posted by Robert B. James on June 18, 2019 at 7:42am 5 Comments

2 Questions for Kosh and Jon

Posted by Ron Powell on June 18, 2019 at 2:30am 9 Comments

© 2019   Created by lorianne.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service