Three birthdays

We have a box of musical greeting cards that I pull out for the kids every so often to try to justify the amount of money that was collectively spent (mostly by grandparents) on them over the years. You know the cards: those eight-dollar, three-dimensional, battery-operated contraptions that sometimes feature LED or motion components activated by the opening of the bifold or the pressing of a button. They’re at once delightfully surprising and highly irritating, particularly after a child repeats the action of opening the card or pressing said button more than, say, seventeen times in a row. Sometimes I wonder if our parents’ predilection for giving these to our kids is rooted in some unrealized impulse to repay us, their children, for all of the time we spent banging on overturned pots and pans with wooden spoons, our generation’s version of a musical greeting card.

Needless to say, our kids love these things, which somehow manage to last for years upon years and withstand a considerable amount of use and reuse and reuse and reuse. The other night, and I have no idea how this happened, a few of those cards somehow ended up on the second floor during the bedtime routine, and I’m sure you can imagine that this added some flavor to an already dynamic scene. I ran downstairs to grab something and, upon returning to our bedroom, found the three children on the loveseat, each with a musical birthday card, conducting what is surely one of the strangest symphonies in human history. They coordinated the opening of the cards to coincide with each other so that all three tinny, digitalized songs would play simultaneously. The songs were “Shining Star” (Earth, Wind and Fire), “We Will Rock You” (Queen), and a shrill original birthday ditty brought to us by the folks at Carlton Cards that features a dancing cupcake with a buzzy mechanism. The odd cacophony of these three strains overlaying each other with simultaneous audio had a perplexing effect: I was torn between wanting to silence two of the three so that I could focus on just one and actually hear its singular song and wanting to put my hands over my ears and scream, while also feeling tempted to just lie down and let the flood of noise wash over me, the confluence of all three tributaries sweeping me away to terminate at the mouth of its delta with a destination that was completely out of my control.

If you don’t have multiple children and wonder what it’s like, I suggest you try opening three musical cards playing different songs at the same time. That experience provides a pretty decent approximation.

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