T2’s birthday is in July but since he is at his dad’s then we have a birthday party for him here before he leaves. Well, we call it a birthday party because his friends come over and bring presents and sing happy birthday and there is cake. He refers to it as his “celebration of life.” Which works, I guess.
C was all over this. About a month and a half ahead of time she started planning it.
“We’re doing laser tag,” she announced.
“Huh?” I said. “Where?”
“Here,” she said. “I found a company that brings all the guns and equipment to your house. You can have up to sixteen people playing at one time.”
I was skeptical. The party was going to be around noon and I couldn’t see how the laser tag guns would possible be any good in broad, bright, baking daylight. I thought it had a high potential to be a bit of a bust, with lots of disappointment and crying and the kids not being happy either.
I was wrong.
The laser tag guy showed up right on time at 10am and started to set up. We were going to be playing in the large common area behind our place, a 40 foot wide by about 300 foot long area. The laser tag guy supplemented the rather meager cover provided by a few small trees and bushes with eight or so camouflage bunkers in the form of pop up tents. He had a long table where 16 laser tag guns, ranging in size from a really big hand gun to a couple of assault rifles were laid out. These weren’t little plastic toys, they were heavy, about 5 or 6 pounds each.
The kids began to arrive. C had bought them all camouflage bandannas and I covered their faces with camo paint. T2 had invited a bunch of people and as far as we can tell, they all showed up.
Originally, I had no plans to play. Really. But the teams were one short and the blue team had T1 and two of his friends (whose little brothers were T2’s friends) on it. That didn’t seem fair, so I grabbed one of the heavier assault rifles and joined the red team.
The guns worked amazingly. They all had laser sights so you could literally be on one side of the battle field and target some seven year old half hiding behind a bush and reliably hit him. I know this from experience. You had a certain number of shots (dependent on the type of weapon) after which you had to reload. You could get hit a number of times before your gun squawked “I’m hit, I’m hit! Medic!” and you had to run back to your base in order to get revived.
It was a ton of fun. The kids loved it. Games lasted anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. I stayed red team the whole time but all the kids switched back and forth. After four or five games some of them started to get tired and the parents, about six or so who were in attendance, got in on it.
“I know what I am doing for my 40th birthday party,” said my next door neighbor as he knelt next to a big green electrical box and shot at T1.
There was yelling and screaming and lots of shooting. All the guns had names on the (mine was “Sarge”) and after each game you could look at the readout on your gun and it would tell you who hit you and how many times.
Two kids stand out.
The first was T2’s friend from school, J. J was on my team every time and every time had massive kill numbers. His strategy was simple and can be summed up in one sentence, which he explained to me as we waited for a game to start, “Running around is stupid.”
J would set up behind a bunker back at our base and just sniped. He never moved. Everyone else was running around like crazy because running may be stupid but it is also fun. Not J. He picked his spot and rained imaginary death down on his friends. During one game he shot a blue team member 45 times. Not all the blue team. One member of the blue team. God knows what he did to the other kids. I told him we should nickname him the Black Death because he killed more people than the plague. J pointed out, very seriously, that the nickname didn’t make sense because he wasn’t black. J’s strong point is tactical combat, not humor.
My favorite kid, however, was G. G lives across the street from us. He is a couple of grades below T2 and is hilarious. He’s a little guy with a giant shock of fiery red hair. He eats like he is pregnant. Whenever he comes over, which is often, he very politely asks what we have to eat. Then, whatever it is, he eats it. A lot of it. It’s not like he isn’t fed at his house, he just loves food.
G’s mode of gameplay was completely opposite of J’s. Everyone is hiding behind bunkers and running from piece of cover to piece of cover. Everyone but G. G runs right down the middle of the playing field, rifle on his hip, firing and yelling. The guns made pretty cool shooting sounds, but G was supplementing those with his own blasts and explosions.
“Come on,” he’d yell,” as he stood next to cover, blasting away down field. “Come on, let’s get emmmm!”
He’d run forward and, for reasons which defy logic, I would follow him. And get shot. It happened about ten times and was funny every single time. I just couldn’t let the insane little dude take on the whole blue team by himself.
C cooked hotdogs and hamburgers. She really did a great job, from start to finish. I know she was worried it wouldn’t work out, but it really was perfect. I made drinks for the adults and cut the birthday cake, which was tremendous, for the kids. Everyone had a great time. Tristan got lots of great presents and, more importantly, got a big blowout with his friends before he left. As he went up to bed he was already planning his Welcome Home Celebration.
I was sore as fuck the next morning. Apparently I’m not in squat and crawl around and jump through puddles shape anymore.