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Party in Place Here’s how the community is celebrating birthdays in lockdown

Who’s ready to party in place? As we all adjust to life in lockdown, plenty of people will or already have celebrated their birthdays indoors this year. That means shouts of “I love you” and renditions of “Happy Birthday” are now happening from across the lawn or over FaceTime and Zoom.

Despite this, people are still finding fun and unique ways to make their landmark days special.

Catonsville resident Kimberly Neal was supposed to celebrate her 40th birthday on March 25. She had initially planned a celebratory brunch and an exciting trip with her husband to Italy. But the plans changed when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan put the state under a stay-at-home order for the next few months.

Instead of waking up early to catch a flight, she woke to find a new fun-filled itinerary written by her family.

“My front yard was an ‘art show’ decorated by neighbors with wine bottles and balloons hanging from a tree and a huge sign that said “40 and Fine as Wine,” she says.

Next was some private yoga on TV and breakfast ordered in from THB Bagels & Deli, her favorite. For lunch, her husband treated her to Palapa enchiladas and a margarita while she had a Zoom visit with friends.

“I did this while wearing a 40th rhinestone tiara, pink sequin dress, silver heels, and of course, full hair and makeup,” Neal says.

For dinner, she decided to change into an evening look and enjoy another Zoom hangout with friends, this time with champagne.

“I changed into a black cocktail dress with a tulle skirt, redid my hair and makeup for an evening look and kept the tiara,” she says. “My husband grilled steaks and he, my son, and I ate dinner using fine china and crystal. The entire day was amazing.”

But Neal wasn’t the only one enjoying herself at home. Her son also celebrated his 8th birthday this month.

“He had four zoom chats with friends and family, a drive-by greeting from a friend complete with birthday signs and fun music, and he happily rode his new bike all day. In these situations, you have to make lemonade from lemons.”

If the Neals are any indication, birthdays can still be fun. But admittedly, some creativity and planning are required.

In Fairfax County, Tiana Petersen was looking for something fun and attainable, so her son Matt’s sixth birthday wouldn’t just be another day. “While we can’t have a big pool party like he originally planned, we will still celebrate together and he will make his favorite cake and meal,” she says.

Bel Air resident Ed Salvatierra knows what Petersen is facing. His daughter turned 16 during the pandemic.

“Her birthday was March 30 and she was extremely sad to have to spend her day in lockdown. She tried to hide her feelings and was trying to lower her expectations, but her disappointment was obvious,” he says.

Luckily, her friends were there to save the day.

One of her friends collected a bunch of sweet happy birthday messages for a video. Others drove their cars to her house, honked their horns, held up signs and even tied a helium balloon on to the family’s basketball hoop.

“Her friend sent the full video, so Mia had it when she woke up on her birthday, and she was thrilled. I’m sure she will remember those gestures for a lifetime,” he says.

In Towson, Martha Edwards, along with her daughter, Maggie, 15, helped celebrate another birthday from a distance. It all started with a group text.

“The text was from the mom of one of my daughter’s friends asking us to help celebrate her daughter Audra’s 15th birthday,” Edwards says. “She asked us to simply come outside at a specific day and time and hold a sign and say “Happy Birthday” when they drove by.

The mother and daughter put out a few balloons, made a sign and even put together a little gift for her to pick up when she came by. “We did add a roll of toilet paper to the gift bag just for fun,” Edward says.

Even though parties have been downgraded to a home celebration, the main takeaway is that there are still so many ways to connect, Edwards says.

“What do we all miss the most on our birthdays? We miss hanging out with our friends and family. I’ve seen so many people using Zoom and Facetime for virtual happy hours, and now, virtual birthday parties,” she says. “Everyone can still sing, talk and share well wishes. There are so many ways we can all be creative and make it work.”

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