Celebrating birthdays in Quaran-teen


Photo Courtesy of James Wachter

Waving to friends and family, senior James Wachter celebrates his 18th birthday. The parade lasted seven minutes. “After the parade, I texted each person thanking them for making my birthday one of the best,” Wachter said.

It’s your 16th birthday. You’re ready to hit the open road and celebrate your freedom…and then you remember that your sweet 16 is confined to your house.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has put Missouri under quarantine, many birthdays have passed. Friends and family of students have had to get creative to celebrate the student’s big day. Many families have organized car parades where family and friends drive past the student’s house honking their horns while the cars are covered in posters, streamers, and balloons. Senior James Wachter’s family and friends did this for his 18th birthday on Wednesday, April 8.

I was sitting outside in the backyard around 6 p.m., thinking that the day was over for activities.  I sat in the backyard content, not bummed because although we couldn’t celebrate it then, it could be celebrated later,” Wachter said. “All of a sudden I heard all sorts of car horns blaring down my street. I walked out front to see what was going on, and I saw all my friends and relatives in their cars all lined up down my street. My mom organized a surprise parade for me, and it was honestly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. As they all drove by, their cars were all decked out with pictures of me and posters that read ‘Send it James!’.” 

As the parade went on, Wachter received a toilet paper “cake”, water guns, a silly string spray down, candy and more gifts from his friends. 

“It was the coolest thing to see, and it made me feel amazing. I couldn’t have been more thankful to have such great friends and family,” Wachter said. “They all knew they couldn’t have a party with the current COVID conditions, so they all decided to bring the party to me!” 

It was the coolest thing to see, and it made me feel amazing. I couldn’t have been more thankful to have such great friends and family”

— James Wachter

Other people have found more unconventional ways to celebrate. Sophomore Graci Badami’s best friend, sophomore Elle Dignam, had the idea to create a scavenger hunt themed after her favorite TV show “Friends” for Badami’s 16th birthday  April 16. 

“My family kept the entire thing a secret so I had no clue any of this would happen. Elle has been my best friend for a while and she is so awesome and thoughtful. I just don’t deserve her,” Badami said. “Even though I wish I could have celebrated with all of my friends, it was a lot of fun.”

The hunt went from Badami’s home to Starbucks, to a few of Badami’s favorite places, and ended at Badami’s favorite restaurant Taco Bell. Dignam had worked for a few days putting the hunt together making sure each spot had a balloon, a jar of flowers, and a clue regarding a character of the show. Badami and Dignam traveled to each stop in separate cars

“I made the scavenger hunt for Graci because I wanted to do something special for my best friend. She’s always been there for me and the least I could do was make her sweet 16 a bit sweeter,” Dignam said. “I was disappointed that she had to spend her birthday in quarantine. She was super excited to have a big birthday party this year and her plans were ruined. She didn’t deserve that for her birthday. I wanted to spend time with her and let her get out of the house which is why I planned the scavenger hunt for her and I think she loved it.”

While these types of celebrations were uncommon before quarantine, they’ve skyrocketed to national success.

“I never expected my 16th birthday to consist of masks and curbside pickup from Vitos, but it’s one I’d wouldn’t change for the world,” Badami said.