Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Another birthday party missed… April 4, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:25 PM
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My granddaughter, Isabelle (“Izzy” for short). Photographed when she was about 17 hours old in April 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


MY CELLPHONE PINGED YESTERDAY with a notification. For my granddaughter’s fourth birthday party. Today. At an interactive indoor play area in the northern Twin Cities metro. The party was canceled a few weeks ago, but I’d forgotten to delete the notice from my phone.

So today, instead of celebrating with my darling Isabelle, her parents and little brother, and a whole bunch of Izzy’s friends, I am home. Separated from the ones I love because of the COVID-19 crisis. I have no reason to complain. Everyone in my immediate family is healthy and in the extended family, too, although we had a bit of a scare recently. My mom remains on hospice in a care center 120 miles distant.

We are all making the best of this pandemic which now shapes our lives. We do what we must to stay healthy and to keep others healthy. While out grocery shopping earlier and then on to a Big Box store to buy a garage door because, you know, the garage door just had to break right now, I saw some people with masks. Not a lot. But I noticed more social distancing signs and the larger retail store banning anyone under age 16 from entering. I also saw too many folks not heeding social distancing. I steered clear of them, including employees at one local grocery store which has no COVID-related signs, nothing.


Izzy’s first birthday cake. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2016.


Yes, I should have been hugging my granddaughter today instead of grocery shopping and buying a garage door. I should have been watching Izzy blow out candles while singing happy birthday to her and celebrating with gift-opening and cake. The year before last, I missed her party because of a blizzard. In retrospect, that is nothing compared to missing a birthday party due to coronavirus.

Isabelle, in a video chat earlier this week, seemed unfazed by the change in plans. She excitedly shared, “I’m celebrating with my family!” She told me about the planned pink birthday cake—her favorite color—frosted and decorated with unicorn sprinkles. I inwardly thanked her parents for stressing to their daughter what she will still have, not what she’s lost in the postponed (until October) party.


One of my favorite photos of Isabelle is this one I took of her in September 2019. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I decided to add to Izzy’s celebration by reaching out to friends and family with a request to send birthday cards to my granddaughter. Many responded and for that I am grateful.

This afternoon, while returning home with the $470 garage door strapped to the top of our van, I saw a family celebrating what appeared to be a birthday. A clutch of colorful balloons decorated the front stoop and people stood in the yard. Social distancing. The scene made me think of my sweet Isabelle and how much I miss her. Especially on her birthday. And I wonder just how long it will be until I can hug her again.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Another birthday party missed…”

  1. Norma Says:

    I believe that Marc and Amber are doing a terrific job with their children. Teaching them to be careful, but not afraid. I dearly love all four of our children, and hope we can all get back to our normal activities in the not too distant future. I spoke to Jennifer, my Mississippi daughter this morning, and they are doing some remodeling to their home. Never a dull moment with those two. Take care…

    • Norma, it’s so good to hear from you. Yes, my daughter and your grandson are doing a great job with our grandchildren. We will be doing a Zoom birthday party for Isabelle so we can all sing happy birthday to her. From Minnesota to California. Stay well.

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    You and Randy are an example of doing the right thing – and gifting Isabelle with a visit via Zoom, and not acting out in upset or great anxiety over what we must do at this time. Life happens – and we often let “our plans” for how things “should be” dictate the anxiety and upset we experience, which can bring on misery and unhappiness. Isabelle lives in the moment, as we all should. There is little in our lives that we control the outcome of. So celebrate with happiness, the blessings you do have – especially today’s technology! Keep well, my friend.

    • Thank you for your sweet, comment, Lori. Please continue to stay well in you house as you celebrate your blessings.

      • Littlesundog Says:

        You too, Audrey. I hope all of your family remains healthy. I especially wonder about your mom. Her days must be lonesome. My siblings have been good to look in on my mom. I do what I can from here – phone calls to help pass the long days for her.

      • I’m glad you have family checking on your mom. I know the care center staff are doing the best they can to keep residents’ spirits up. Mom may not even understand the reality of what is happening.

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    Our granddaughter’s 3rd birthday party on April 18th has also been cancelled. This is hard.

  4. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Audrey, I’m sorry you had to miss Izzy’s birthday party in person and am glad you can video chat with her in the meantime while we work to flatten the curve. You’ll all have much to look forward to! It is hard. I had a few bad moments yesterday as I thought about how long it’s been since I hugged my kids or my granddaughter and was feeling very sorry for us all. So outside to take a walk I went. That certainly helped. We have so many tools to help us all keep our distance and ride out this pandemic. While we’re doing that, we can make the most glorious plans for future birthday parties and dates to hug our kids!

    • I so look forward to those future parties and hugs.

      It’s OK to have a few bad moments. We’re dealing with a lot and separation from those we love is difficult. But we know we’re doing it because we love them and want to protect them and ourselves. Keep walking, Kathleen. And keep holding onto those glorious plans.

  5. First, I am sorry that you had to miss your Izzy’s birthday party, that must have been so hard for you and Randy. I know first hand the need to grab those babies and give them big hugs!!! SOON my friend! We will miss Audrey’s as well….her 11th! I am thinking of doing a scavenger hunt in our back yard, she can read hints and scurry around the house outside lookng for her gifts. We can watch from afar. I just really want to do something special for her. We are so lucky to live close enough to do something like this. Stay healthy 🙂

  6. Missy’s Crafty Mess/Missy’s Handarbeid Says:

    Oh my goodness I can’t believe she’s that old already. This too shall pass and I bet mom & dad might need a date night.

    • I’m sure they will need a date night. And we’re always happy to spend time with the grandkids. But, for now, we’re staying apart, just in case any of us would get sick and then potentially pass along the virus to loved ones. I miss my grandkids and my kids sooooooooo much. I am thankful for technology that connects us.

      I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and remain so.

      • Missy’s Crafty Mess/Missy’s Handarbeid Says:

        That’s a good plan! We are all healthy! Wishing you a happy Easter

  7. Ruth Says:

    Aww the missing of seeing the grandchildren is the hardest part and on a birthday. Glad you are all well ❤️

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