So here's the thing: Noise, chaos and commotion send me over the edge.

Good thing I had my kids when I was young and not quite such a curmudgeon.

Fortunately, all four of my grandkids are sweet, gentle, precious, quiet little angels.

Unfortunately, their birthday parties are rowdy, rambunctious riots.

Just between you and me, I kinda blame their parents for that. They have a habit of booking these parties at loud places, like swimming pools and bouncy houses and bowling alleys, places that positively encourage kids to run around screaming their little heads off, and that's before they get even more jazzed up on cake, ice cream and soft drinks.

I have learned to time my arrival to avoid the majority of the mayhem, showing up just as the gifts are being opened, so I can thrust my offering into the eager hands of the guest of honor, watch as s/he rips open the paper and squeals with delight at my fabulous gift* so I can swoop down, kiss him/her on the forehead with a reminder of how much Granma loves him/her, and then zoom out the door with a minimum of anxiety and jittery nerves.

(*Here I will pause to modestly mention that I give great gifts, even if I do give them on the run.)

My third grandchild just turned 5 years old last week. Five is a great age to be because you get to hold up all the fingers on your hand when people ask how old you are. And in case you are wondering, the worst age is 3 because it is hard to hold up only three fingers, especially when you are only 3 years old. You see the problem.

Anyway, true to pattern, my daughter Beth booked her little boy's birthday at a local bowling alley. I don't know how many children she invited; judging from the decibel level when I arrived, my guess is 400.

I arrived earlier than I had intended because Beth forgot to pack a knife to cut the cake she had ordered -- a work of art that was decorated to look like Spider Man, complete with webby-looking frosting around the edges.

So she texted me and asked me to bring a knife, which meant I had to make an unplanned run to a nearby store because that is something I did not already have. There is a reason I don't like big knives, but that's a long story I probably won't ever get around to telling, and it doesn't matter anyway. So I went to the Dollar Store, which surprisingly does not sell cake servers, which I had hoped to purchase, and instead I had to buy a set of three large, sharp knives. On the upside, however, the customers standing in line let me go ahead of them, but whether that was because of the grim look on my face or because I was carrying sharp weapons or a combination of both, I do not know.

Anyway, I arrived at the bowling alley/birthday party around the time the kids were in the sixth frame of their games on two adjacent lanes, rearranged the gift table so that Brody would hopefully open mine first so I could leave, and then did my best to stay out of the way as hordes of small screaming children ran all over the place.

Three of my four grandchildren were in attendance, and at some point, I managed to snatch each of them up as s/he dashed past me, pulling them into my lap for a quick hug and kiss and reminder of how much Granma loves them.

I hugged the birthday boy extra tight. "Happy birthday, Brody Coyote," I said. "Granma loves you."

Brody threw his arms around my neck and hugged me tight. "I wuv yoo too, Gwanma!" he cried, and then was gone again.

The cake was cut, the presents were opened, hilarity continued to ensue, but I had gotten what I came for. I swiftly made the rounds of the adults in attendance, bidding them hello and farewell in pretty much the same sentence, then collected the knives, which I took with me only because it seemed wise not to leave blades sitting around in a room full of careening children, and slipped out the door.

Let the good times roll, indeed, and I mean it when I say I hope everyone had fun.

As for me, strike the noise and spare me the chaos.

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