As our kids were growing up on Matinicus — they having been littles in the 1990s — we took note of the way in which island children’s birthday parties differed from the cliché suburban stress-bombs described by those who bewail the popular culture. There were, for example, never any of the customary rented extravagances intended to show off in front of the neighbors such as pony rides, bouncy-houses, magicians or similar professional entertainers, photo-ops with Bono, fly-overs by the Blue Angels, etc.

Well, except for the guy across the street, back when he turned 40, or so they thought; it was actually his 41st birthday but somebody lost count; anyway, they got together and hired a couple of, uh, hmmm … dancing girls. The entire community was short on $1 bills for a month.

But I was thinking more in terms of children’s parties. Here, a parent does not toss and turn wondering if they are inadvertently the unforgiveable wretch because Little Bobby forgot to invite some kid who sits three desks over and one back to the left. There just aren’t that many school kids, never mind classmates of the same age. Word goes around, and all the kids are welcome.

Likewise, the competition among parents to see who can afford to hand out the most desirable “party favor treat bags” which, one hears, in some neighborhoods compete admirably with Oscar Night swag or bribes to corrupt third-world waterfront officials does not seem to be a thing. Water pistols are still good.

No, the socially conscious parent in any self-respecting upper-middle-class subdivision would envy the ease with which an island family can pull off a wildly successful birthday celebration. The only really out-of-the-ballpark expense might be air transportation for certain wished-for treats such as Chinese take-out or Grandma. A homemade cake does nicely, and plenty of people around here bake; that’s no big deal. That cake, by the way, need not be decorated by somebody off the Food Channel with accurate-to-scale renderings of the entire France and Croatia World Cup teams and all of the side characters from Thomas the Tank Engine in precisely colored fondant. A picnic table in the dooryard will serve just fine for the refreshments, assuming there isn’t more than the usual hurricane.

If you don’t have a picnic table, the neighbor probably does. One thing we can generally agree on is the portability of our patio furniture.

There is no harm in a theme party, if the sponsoring adult is feeling it. When Eric and Emily were of an age for such revelries I remember one extraordinary Harry Potter-themed effort, produced as if by magic by a mom who would have loved to go to Hogwarts herself. Once, when our kitchen was mostly demolished prior to a new addition, our son’s birthday had to be held outdoors despite unseasonably cold, raw weather. We served hot cake (right out of the neighbor’s oven, mine having been disconnected from the gas) and plenty of hot chocolate off the Coleman stove so as to avert hypothermia. I suppose that counted as a theme.

The really special thing about many island birthday parties, though, is how people of all ages attend. Crawling babies go and have to be manhandled to prevent them from ripping open the wrapped presents. Preschoolers go and eat the frosting off a whole plate of cupcakes. All the school kids go, from Kindergarten through 8th grade, unless they are out to haul, and ordinarily the teacher goes, too. If they are home from high school, teenagers are apt to show up on dirt-bikes and four-wheelers, staying long enough to grab a hunk of cake. Mom and dad’s friends are invited. They drink.

My husband and I were invited to a party last week in honor of a pair of twins turning seven. Typical of an island holiday, this party was several days removed from their actual birthday, the celebration moved on account of logistics — in this case, getting their dad here from the mainland where he was working. The dates of any islander’s festivities must be kept flexible. There have been plenty of times when the Glorious Fourth of July has become the Glorious Fifth due to fog, or Thanksgiving dinner was a few days away from the Macy’s Parade because people couldn’t travel due to weather or the turkey itself was stuck on the mainland waiting for it to be “flyable” (the sky conditions, not the turkey).

The birthday party we happily attended last weekend for Grace and Reverdy, ages seven years four days, did include a special activity, albeit without need of a second mortgage. Paul was asked to bring his tractor. The bright green John Deere 1050, with Paul the operator hoisting little kids high overhead in the bucket, provided as much fun as any pony ride.