April 20, 1978. It was an special day for Josie, it was her 6th birthday. Already, the day had been a whirl of excitement. There were pink iced chocolate cupcakes, made with much love by her mother and packed on a foil wrapped cookie sheet to bring to school to pass out to her classmates and her beloved first grade teacher, Mr. W.
She had worn a dress to school that day, which now bounced playfully in the warm spring wind as she trotted home from school, the thirteen block walk less daunting due to her small circle of friends that joined her on the journey. There was eight of them in all, including herself. They filled the sidewalk with their party dresses and backpacks as they linked arms as they walked, stopping frequently in fits of giggles and side tracked observations. And what should have been the best walk home of the year, with nothing but thoughts of ice cream and strawberry pink cake, presents and balloons, came a sick feeling in Josie's stomach as the secret she kept inside began to come to realization.
It all began two weeks earlier when her mother instructed her to pick out six friends to invite to a birthday party. One girl for each year that she was turning. Simple math to a mother, a little more difficult for a social five going on six year old who was a people pleaser at heart. She invited the sweet ballerina with the long braids, the tomboy that was her closest friend at the moment and the tomboys step-sister. There was the girl with a thick glasses and the strange but exotic name. There was a blonde girl that she spent endless hours playing with after school at the grandmother's house that watched her while her parent's worked. There was a girl named Tracey that she invited for no particular reason. That was six. And then there was Andi. Andi lived up the block, six houses part her own. She didn't know why she decided on a whim to invite that auburn haired freckle face girl, but she did. Now merely four blocks from a room full of streamers and paper cups of kool-aid, Josie realized that she had to interrupt this blissful excursion with the truth of her miss-step.
And while memory alludes her to the exact words, somehow she told Andi that she couldn't come to her party and as the other's ran up the brick walk in front of Josie's green house, Andi continued on her way home.
Years later, Josie tells her Mom of this incident, to which her mother is horrified, "what must Andi's mother thought all these years? If I had known, she certainly could have come to the party...what was one more?"
And while it is unknown what Andi's mother thought, ironically, Josie and Andi became the best of friends years later when they were in middle school, a friendship that would last over the years, through marriages and babies. In fact, on her 18th birthday, Josie would receive a blue and white wrapped gift from her friend, inside a small stuffed squirrel, the exact gift that Andi had nestled in her back-pack years ago on that long walk home....
Now a mother, I think back to that day can't imagine what this little girl or her mother dealt with that day. Oh, the mistakes we make as children. Why didn't I just confess to my mother that I had invited a 7th? I don't know....fear of not getting a present for not following her directions? I can't tell you why...I can only say that each year as my birthday approaches, I think about this certain day. More so, I think about the little girl and her stuffed squirrel and how we can now look back and laugh about it, how lucky am I that she didn't ban me from her life forever.
Yesterday was my 38th birthday. Last Saturday, I arrived at my girlfriend's house, Ms. Sexy Spice to be surprised by friends and food and booze and laughter that spilled into the dark night. My first surprise party ever. And while there were friends, both near and far that couldn't partake in the festivities, I went home that evening and thought to myself... it isn't who was actually at the party that really counted as a whole, but who was invited, who I wished were there... and in spirit, they were. And those that were there with me that night were a representation of every blessed person in my life. How lucky am I that they love me so much to want to celebrate the "Me" of Me.
Sexy Spice. Skater Girl. Hoots. MarthaStew. Thank you ladies! Not only do you share in the ups and downs of my everday, you surprised me with one of the best surprises of my life and made me remember to 'live in the moment", savor the sweetness....and I'm not talking about the candy from the pinata!