Eve Fischer, 57, sits alone in the park with her dogs after seeing her usual birthday gathering dashed for the second time due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in Toronto on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Eve Fischer, 57, sits alone in the park with her dogs after seeing her usual birthday gathering dashed for the second time due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in Toronto on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

COVID-19 takes the cake, again: Spring babies face 2nd birthday in a pandemic

Late winter, early spring babies the first group whose birthday gatherings were overshadowed or called off in 2020

Bubbly and flamboyant Eve Fischer is known among her friends for throwing unforgettable birthday celebrations, but the COVID-19 pandemic is really cramping her party spirit.

Before the world ground to a halt, the Toronto resident had a reputation for holding birthday soirees at her favourite restaurants that were more than just cakes and candles. Bottles of prosecco would be flowing, laughter almost endless, and between a couple dozen of her closest friends there were hugs aplenty.

“(My) birthdays are Beverly Hills-style, you know, like the Real Housewives,” the 57-year-old explained.

“It means a lot because it’s getting together to celebrate another year that we’re alive.”

Except on last year’s birthday – Friday, March 13, 2020 – sinister energy was looming over her usual boisterous gathering.

Two days earlier, the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, raising anxiety among her friends. Nearly half of her guests pulled out of their reservations and the ones who showed up couldn’t shake their fears.

“It obviously took away from the evening,” Fischer remembers.

“We had masks, Lysol wipes and we were in a private room, but every conversation was: ‘What is this disease?’ ‘What is going on?’ ‘Should we even be using their utensils?’”

Late winter and early spring babies were the first group whose 2020 birthday gatherings were overshadowed, or suddenly called off, as physical distancing measures came into effect. And they are at the front of the line to be reminded that the party is still cancelled in 2021.

For some, losing a birthday party or two is trivial, but for others, these social events are about making memories with the people closest to them.

A year later, Fischer still mourns how the party stalled.

She marked her second pandemic birthday earlier this month without the usual room of familiar faces. A small gathering of three people within her bubble was nice, but hardly the usual revelry that made these events special.

“It’s just another disappointment,” Fischer said.

“And the thing is, the older you get, you don’t know how many of those birthdays you have left.”

New mom Wendy Cacilhas had big plans for her son’s first birthday last year that included packing 60 people into a rented space. But when it became clear that wouldn’t be possible, the Burlington, Ont. resident started thinking of other ways to mark the occasion.

Jumping online, her husband dug up a recipe for cake fondant while she ordered her son a bow tie and suspenders to dress him for a substitute Zoom party.

The compromise was fitting for the early days of the pandemic, but after spending much of the past year on Zoom calls, Cacilhas had no interest in replicating the experience for another birthday.

“I have zero desire to spend additional time online,” she said.

“I’d rather have no events than a virtual event.”

Not long ago, Cacilhas started considering ways to safely mark her son’s second birthday in person.

With spring weather peeking through, she planned three small weekend meet-ups with close friends and family to maintain a feeling of community.

“I know it’s not important in the grand scheme of what people have lost — like kids’ birthday parties are not a thing,” Cacilhas said.

“I feel grateful that he’s not four, five or six where he feels a loss of something. He doesn’t know any better, he doesn’t know any different, and I guess I already mourned not having a big party last year.”

“What I’ve learned is expect nothing, or very little, and you won’t be disappointed,” she added.

Tell that to Noah Sexsmith, who watched his 18th birthday come and go last March without any much fanfare.

Instead of hanging out at the local bar with friends to toast reaching Alberta’s legal drinking age, he was locked down with his family and a stack of pizzas at home.

And while that was fine for one year, the pandemic trampled over a bunch of other adolescent milestones on the way to putting the damper on his 19th birthday earlier this month.

First went his traditional high school graduation, which became a physically distanced drive-in ceremony, and then his first day of university, which he lived out through his webcam.

Occasionally an older sibling or friend will chime in with fond memories of their late teen birthdays.

“All of them have these fun stories and you’re just left there blank,” he said.

“It’s a little sad knowing we’ll never be able to have the same experience.”

Sexsmith tries not to dwell much on missing out. He’s already thinking about what comes next, including a livelier 20th birthday with his friends.

“I’m very much hoping it won’t be in the house again,” he said.

“After not having two of the most significant birthdays, I’ll definitely have a bigger appreciation for all birthdays.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Trail Smoke Eaters fell 6-1 to the Penticton Vees on Sunday, their third loss to the perennial BCHL powerhouse six games into the 20-game season. Photo: Stephen Piccolo
Penticton Vees dominant in win over Trail Smoke Eaters

Trail Smoke Eaters enjoy two day break until their fourth meeting with Penticton Vees on Wednesday

Kalesnikoff Lumber will be providing materials for a 21-storey apartment building in Vancouver. Rendering: Henriquez Partners Architects
Kalesnikoff supplying mass timber for several major projects

The West Kootenay lumber company will be making the products at South Slocan facility

This painting is a piece from Young Visions 2021, opening April 22 at the Kootenay Gallery. Photo: S. Painter
Showcase of artwork by Kootenay Columbia students opens April 22

Young Visions 2021 runs April 22 to May 29 in the Kootenay Gallery of Art, Castlegar

Selkirk College has received provincial funding to assist students. File photo
Selkirk College receives funding to assist students

Provincial funding is available to West Kootenay students

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

Interior Health improves access to mental health supports amid COVID-19 pandemic. (Stock)
Interior Health connects people to mental health resources amid COVID

310-MHSU line receives positive feedback in early months of rollout

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

Most Read