By Nancy King
Let’s start with the fact that I’m old, forty-four to be precise, and consequently I’ve attended a fair number of baby showers (including my own). They’ve all been variations on a single theme: lots of shiny new presents, a table laden with food (heavy on the sweets), and a room full of women, oohing and ahing as the mother-to-be unwraps all the loot that will outfit the nursery and the newborn.
Well, this past weekend, I attended yet another baby shower, but this one was decidedly different. Vanessa, the expectant mother, was not registered and in fact was not interested in receiving shiny new presents. Instead, she invited her guests to bring hand-me-downs or recycled baby items. Isn’t that brilliant? I don’t know about you, but in the nearly seven years that I’ve been a parent, it seems like I have given away—mostly to unseen strangers—enough of my child’s stuff to dress and entertain a bunch of kids.
I was thrilled, therefore, to look through the bags of outgrown clothing and books that live in our basement for a few special items. I gave Vanessa (or her daughter, to be more precise) two bathing suits that were never worn and a faux fur vest that I would be wearing if I could squeeze into a size 4T. I added a couple of picture books and put everything into a recycled gift bag from my daughter’s last birthday party.
I was glad that the fur vest was a hit (I got bonus points for having purchased it used from a consignment shop) but had more fun seeing what other treasures were unveiled. (Vanessa wasn’t into being the center of attention, so each guest picked a present to open.) By the time we were done, there were oodles and oodles of good-as-new clothing, blankets, stuffed animals, books, and more. There was even a homemade do-it-yourself baby wipes kit consisting of a paper towel roll that sits inside a plastic canister soaking in a tea-tree oil-based solution. Again, isn’t that brilliant?
For me, another distinguishing factor at the party was the food: everything was vegan and guests were asked to bring a dish to share. An unapologetic carnivore, I panicked and brought a pretty dull fruit salad. But, oh, what bounty there was! From a garlicky bruschetta with chopped red and yellow tomatoes to udon noodles with sesame seeds and seaweed, the table was laden with an array of surprisingly delicious things—and I don’t mean delicious for being vegan, just flat-out delicious. The real culinary hit was a platter of red velvet frosted cupcakes. I have no idea how anyone can make cupcakes that moist, and frosting that creamy without using dairy (for those curious to find out, the recipe comes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz).
The guest of honor wasn’t into playing games at the shower, so instead the group was asked to contribute a handwritten note to each of three boxes: the first was labeled “Last-Minute Advice” for the soon-to-be parents; the second was “A Favor” offered by each guest that the new parents will open in January; and the third invited us to write something about Vanessa and her husband that their child will open in 2013, on her fifth birthday.
Now I’m sure many of you have gone to a baby shower and come home with a favor that’s cute but useless (at my shower, guests were given mini plastic baby bottles filled with candy). Here, too, Vanessa’s shower scored high on the make-it-different scale. Prior to the party, we each had contributed the name of a song to be included on a delivery room CD, and our party favor was a copy of the CD. From The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” to “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa, this collection rocks—whether you’re having a baby or having a dance party. And in keeping with the shower’s spirit of recycle-and-reuse, I am passing along the complete playlist:
“I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones
“The Rainbow Connection” by Sarah McLachlan
“Hang On” by Dr. Dog
“Stay Up Late” by Talking Heads
“Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa
“She’s My Baby” by Mazzy Star
“The Luckiest” by Ben Folds
“One Love” by Bob Marley
“The Seed” by The Roots
“1234” by Feist
“Everybody Poops” by Jimmy Bean
“Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears
“Brand New Baby” by Mark Erelli
“Say It Loud” by James Brown
“Believe” by Cher
“Breathe” by Faith Hill
“Weird Fishes” by Arpeggi/Radiohead
“Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder
“First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes
Baby showers are happy occasions, but this one made me happier than most. It felt great to make a gift of my daughter’s things to a friend (knowing that friend would have to buy and consume less as a result), and it felt great to be part of a group of mothers doing what they do best: sharing everything from insights and advice to vegan cupcakes and Bob Marley.
Artwork shown is from the baby shower invitation.