At ‘drive-by parties,’ cars honk Happy Birthday

Abigail Sy’s drive-by party was attended by 30 cars.
Some of Bergenfield’s Finest and the former Mayor were in attendance.

By Cristina DC Pastor

Once upon a time, children reveled in the passage of each birthday celebrated with friends and relatives over grilled hotdogs and parlor games. COVID-19 has changed all that.

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Two families shared with The FilAm how they organized their daughters’ ‘drive-by parties’ where guests stayed in their cars honking their greetings and gifts were sprayed with Lysol.

Abigail Lauren Sy of Bergenfield, New Jersey, celebrated her 15th birthday with about 30 cars lined up in front of their house honking and making all sorts of noise. Inside the cars were friends and families greeting her a Happy Birthday on May 17. Abbey was by the door of the family residence smiling, waving and air-kissing her well-wishers. The gifts were handed by the front lawn and Abbey would pick them up with a quick ‘thanks.’ No extended conversations, no hugs and kisses, which is the “challenging part,” according to her mother Cheely Ann Sy.

Cheely, who works as a Talent Acquisition Consultant, decorated everything. There was no time to order a cake, so she and her daughters baked one. Abbey is the second of the Sys’ five children, including Cassie, 18; RJ, who passed away from a rare type of cancer in 2014; and twins Samuel and Raphael, 3.

“We had over 30 cars show up including two fire trucks and police cars, the former Mayor who is a great friend, and most of our local friends,” she said. “The cops and the firemen gave the freshman at Bergenfield High School, a fist bump. “Everyone was just craving the human touch,” she said.

The neighbors came out of their houses wondering what the noise was about and eventually joined the festivity from their front steps.

The Sys served light snacks of cupcakes, pancit, and leche flan to show their appreciation. “Everything was grab-and-go,” said Cheely. After circling around the block three to four times, the vehicles left. The envelope gifts were put in a basket and wiped clean.

“She didn’t think anyone would show up,” said Cheely of Abbey’s initial reaction to the idea of throwing a weird gathering where guests came but stayed in their cars. “It was an amazing feeling that they all got out of their houses to honk their love for her.”

Emily Reyes was ecstatic to see her friends at her Princess-themed party.  
Some of the cars that drove by the Reyes home in Long Island.

Over in Long Island, Emily Victoria Reyes turned 5 years old on May 11 surprised by the honking of cars the afternoon of her birthday. Her mother, Charina Reyes, led a caravan of friends’ cars that drove in front of their house noisily honking their birthday wishes.

“I invited Emily’s friends, family friends through Facebook so they could RSVP,” shared Charina, a physical therapist who works in the family-owned Reyes & Reyes Physical Therapy clinic in Baldwin. “I included a rain date in case of bad weather.”

The guests assembled at the town pool parking lot where they festooned cars with posters and balloons. When everybody was ready, a portable Bluetooth played Happy Birthday and Charina led the pack of vehicles to their house where Emily was excitedly waiting with her father and elder sister Lauren.

“We told them they didn’t have to bring any gifts, just handmade posters or banners with birthday greetings,” said Charina.  Still, there was a stream of presents which she sprayed with Lysol before handing to Emily.

“Wearing masks, my husband and I approached each of the cars and handed the passengers – who were also wearing masks — their goody bags to thank them. After a good 20 minutes from the meeting place, everyone left to go home,” she said.

Emily was ecstatic seeing her friends and realized how different this birthday celebration was. Said her mom, “I thought drive-by is so sweet. It’s good to have this touch of comfort.”

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© The FilAm 2020

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