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My family and I have been invited to a baby’s first birthday party. Her (or his, I have never met this baby before) parents are my father’s clients. In fact my father, admittedly, has never met these people before. His only communication with the couple has been through telephone and email. Nevertheless, we have been invited to their baby’s first birthday party, which is to be held, as their trendy webpage/invitation announces, on the second to last Sunday of the month, beginning promptly at twelve o’clock noon.
My father and brother abhor shopping. So, naturally, it falls on me and my mother to buy the birthday present. It cannot be anything too practical. This is, after all, a birthday party, not a baby shower. It should be slightly ostentatious, considering we have never met this people before. And it needs to reflect my parent’s sagacious knowledge of what babies need. This final requirement stems from the observation that on the couple’s webpage RSVP chat room a majority of the attending guests are either newly married or newly parented. In such circumstances my parents need to give off the aura that they are, after bringing up seventeen year old and nine year old, experts in the field of child rearing.
The problem is that babies do not really need anything except for diapers, formula, and pacifiers. This is especially true for the Indian ones, whose parents prefer saving their money for Harvard, rather than on FisherPrice kitchen sets.
When buying a gift, it is essential to choose something that the recipient can appreciate, something that the receiver of the gift will treasure for years to come; gazing fondly at it whenever the mood strikes.
This is hardly possible with babies. From my own experience as a baby, and after watching my brother, I can honestly say that babies don’t really care for much. Anything you give them will be played with for an hour, maybe two, and then vomited on. The sticky toy will be kicked under a piece of furniture and forgotten until four years later when mother decides to change the layout of the living room.
Clearly, when it came to finding a toy for this baby, the odds were against us. My mother and I tried everywhere. We went to Toys ‘R’ Us. Nothing. We went to KB Toys. Nada. We went to FAO Schwartz. Zilch. We even went to this over priced boutique called, and I quote, fUnkEE mUnkEE, where a tiny plastic ball costs thirty-five dollars (because it’s made of organic rubber). We found nothing.
And so we tried a different approach. Why not get something for the parents? That’s how we found ourselves at Borders, staring at a display rack of hardcover books in soft pink, blues, and greens all with the words “Baby First…” written in childish scrawl on the cover. I picked one off the shelf. The book was heavy and when I opened it I found that it wasn’t really a book, but a scrapbook. Each page was entitled, “Baby’s First…” followed by a mundane every-day activity that for parents of new born babies are cataclysmic.
The first page read “Baby’s First Word.” The second read, “Baby’s First Step”. The third page caught my interest, “Baby’s First Movie,” it read.
The first movie I ever saw in a movie theater was Dinosaur. A Disney movie about, you guessed it, dinosaurs rendered in computer-generated animation. I remember little of the actual movie, only the spectacular feeling of being in a movie theater, towered by a giant sixty foot screen that enthralls you into another world. I was fascinated by the cinema and my parents took me to see a movie almost every Tuesday, where the matinee was only five dollars for an adult, and free for a child.
After a while, my interest in movies waned, replaced by books and Harry Potter. That is, of course, until my brother was born. My brother harbors an interest in movies that is unparalleled to anyone else’s. At nine, my brother has seen hundreds of movies: cartoons, dramas, and mysteries. His favorite movie, or rather movies, of all time is Star Wars.
My brother was born in 1999, the same year The Phantom Menace came out, so he’s always been immersed in the Star Wars culture. He’s seen all six movies, several times; and he can’t decide who he likes better: Anakin or Luke. Just as Harry Potter reading-marathons were a staple of my childhood, watching all six Star Wars movies in one day has been a staple of his.
I think my brother’s interest in Star Wars comes from his fascination with the Force, the mythical energy that is all around us. One of his favorite scenes is in A New Hope, where Obi-wan Kanobi attempts to teach Luke Skywalker how to properly use the force to levitate metal balls, light sabers and, later, entire spaceships.
For my brother, the Force is akin to magic, and like any budding magician, he attempts to use it too. Unlike Skywalker or Kanobi, my brother doesn’t use (or try to use) the Force to levitate objects. His application is somewhat more peculiar.
I caught him in the act two days ago. He was sitting in front of his computer and staring at the screen. What was on the screen surprised me. Instead of his usual cartoons and games, my brother was on Google Finance, comparing stock quotes for Apple and Google.
My brother’s fourth grade class began playing the Stock Market Game two months ago, an online game where players receive a hefty sum of one hundred thousand fake dollars, which they are free to invest in the stock market. The player who makes the most profit in the end is the winner.
My brother sat in front of the computer, eyes closed, hands on his temples.
“What are you doing?” I asked, worried that he had fallen asleep.
Slowly, he put his hands on the table, opened his eyes, and looked at me.
I fought back a smile. “Why?”
“I’m trying to make Google’s stock go down, so I can buy it.”
“By staring at it?”
“No, by using the Force.”
“Yes I can. See, look.”
He resumed his position. Four minutes later, Google’s stock dropped thirty-two cents.
Trying to explain to my little brother that the economy did not work this way, that you cannot manipulate stock prices by simply using the Force was futile. For the better half of the day my brother sat in front of the computer, staring, meditating, and using the Force to make Google’s stock go down.
We decided that the “Baby First…” book was probably not a good birthday present. And so we continued our pursuit of The Perfect Gift for a Baby We Never Met.
We finally settled on getting the baby an American Express Gift Certificate. I’ve always thought that gift certificates were a pretty lame gift, given by people who were clueless about the art of gift giving. Still, what had to be done had to be done. At our local Chase we bought a hundred dollar certificate that was in a pretty golden envelope with lace trim.
At home, my brother and father were incredulous.
“You were out the whole day,” my father began, “and all you got was a gift certificate?”
“Really,” said my mother, “there wasn’t much to choose from.”
“You should have used the Force,” my brother said matter of factly, “it would have guided you.” He was still starting at Google’s stock quotes.
“I already told you. The Force is not real.” I told him.
“Oh yeah?” he said, “Look.” He pointed to the computer screen. Google’s stock had fallen seventy dollars.
Suddenly I pictured myself at a toy store, surrounded by toys, confused and puzzled. On top of me, floating over a display of teddy bears was not Obi-wan, but my brother wearing brown flowing robes.
“Use the Force, Geetika,” he said solemnly. And then I found it. The Perfect Gift For The Baby We Had Never Met.