A Birthday Party During A Public Health Crisis

My kids’ school has been closed for almost two weeks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We’ve been using this time to garden, bake, write, and read together.*

With my eight-year-old, I’m reading Pages & Co: The Bookwanderers by Anna James. It features an eleven-year-old bibliophile whose favorite characters, Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables, start showing up in real life.

Fictional friends are the only people we are allowed to hang out with while practicing social distancing. Today, on my birthday, I’ve been thinking about which characters I’d invite to a party. This is my list:

  • Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. As anyone familiar with my blog already knows, I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen’s books, and I’ve written two books inspired by her work (Amelia Elkins Elkins and A Case of First Impression). I’m weighing whether to add Lydia Bennet to the list too. She’s immature and annoying, but she enjoys parties, and I have a lot of sympathy for her. She’s just a kid by modern standards. I might as well invite all the Bennets, even if that means Mary will insist on performing.
  • Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. Obviously
  • Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. I loved this play when I was a kid, and I recently saw a wonderful performance of it at my local high school. Beatrice is smart, sarcastic, and funny.
  • Miss Lambe from Sanditon by Jane Austen. We have only twelve chapters of this unfinished novel, and Miss Lambe, “a young West Indian of large fortune,” is one of the characters. I wonder what Austen had in mind for her. I suspect it would’ve been quite different from the plot Andrew Davies started (but also didn’t finish) in his TV adaptation, as enjoyable as it is. I’d ask for her thoughts on that subject at the party.

So, that’s my list. I’ve enjoyed many contemporary novels over the years, but my favorite characters, the ones who are the most comforting in times of crisis, are the ones I met when I was young. My childhood bookshelves were full of classics.

As for my birthday, I’m going to take a page from Anne Shirley’s book and celebrate in a more traditional manner on a future date. 

Stay safe, everyone.

Spring came early this year. I’ve never had so many flowers on my birthday!
In the twelve years I’ve known that magnolia, it’s never bloomed this early. It usually blooms around my daughter’s birthday, which is April 14th

*I’m also working remotely and cooking what feels like a thousand meals a day.


  1. Now that would be fun, inviting book characters around for a party. Jack Reacher and Jane Rizzoli perhaps, Sherlock Holmes. Maybe not for children. Happy birthday AMB.

  2. Happy birthday! These are strange and scary times, but I am glad to see that you are finding joy and beauty as you always do. Also, I love your list. I heartily second all of your party guests – I am reading Sanditon now and looking forward to meeting Miss Lambe. (I’d been saving Sanditon because I don’t want to live in a world where I’ve read everything Jane Austen write. But there’s always The Watsons and her letters. And I needed something special.)

    Hope your next year is wonderful!

    1. Thanks, Jaclyn! It was a very nice birthday, despite the scary situation we’re all facing right now. I hope you’re enjoying Sanditon. It’s short, but it’s good. It’s sad to think Jane Austen was writing about a family of hypochondriacs while suffering with a terminal illness. Have you seen the recent adaptation?

  3. Happy birthday! I am happy to hear everyone is well at your house. We are so far at mine too. My birthday is in two weeks so all the plans have been cancelled. James is going to make me an extra decadent chocolate cake and since spring has sprung here early too, I am hoping by then I might be able to do a few things out in the garden. Enjoy your imaginary party and the actual celebration as well. Take care and stay safe!

    1. I’m glad to hear everyone’s well at your house too! We’ve been staying home (including the yard and going for walks in the neighborhood but staying well over six feet away from our neighbors). I will have to break our quarantine for a dental visit on Wednesday (painful broken tooth), and the prospect of being within six feet of anyone outside of my home terrifies me. Ugh. Being able to spend time outside in the garden is helping with the anxiety, though. It’s so therapeutic. Your birthday plans sound wonderful! Happy birthday in advance.

  4. Happy birthday, Amal! My niece’s 10th birthday party was supposed to be on Saturday, and it got cancelled. So weird to try and explain to a child that they can’t have their party due to a pandemic and not make them panic. She’s panicked.

    Those are some lovely guests you’ve chosen! I’m definitely picturing a high tea birthday for you!

    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes! I had a very nice day, despite the anxiety-inducing atmosphere. I’m sorry your niece’s party had to be cancelled. It’s so hard for kids to understand. My youngest has a birthday in April, and I imagine we’ll still be social distancing. We’ll celebrate with her friends as soon as we can, but it won’t be for another couple of months.

      1. I have another niece whose birthday is in April, and I have all sorts of questions! Is it okay to mail her a gift, or is that just several people and machines that potentially have the virus on them being sent to her doorstep? I have no idea.

  5. Happy birthday! It was my birthday on Wednesday and it was the strangest one that I have had – these are very weird times. I would certainly want to hang out with Anne Shirley and Beatrice at a party – but I think at a party with Elizabeth Bennet, I would probably be sitting in the corner awkwardly with Mary.

    1. Happy belated birthday! I hope you did something fun to celebrate. Yes, these are very weird times. Most years, I take the day off from work to visit Longwood Gardens, but of course, it’s temporarily closed. I’ll still get to see my family and that is always nice.

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