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Granny's Ninth Birthday
I often think, how could I have survived without these women?
I stood at my front door surrounded by balloons as each friend handed me a colorful package. 'Happy Birthday, Twink!' With a childlike curtsey I thanked them.
'Are any b-o-y-s coming?' asked Becky, my redheaded friend.
'No way!' shouted Ruth, 'This is just for girls.' Ruth is 5' 10' and very opinionated.
These were friends I'd known a long time. Becky's hair is red; she dyes the gray. Ruth has been 5' 10' for 60 of her 72 years.
Eight members of our Granny Group had come to celebrate a little-girl birthday, one of many parties I missed growing up. My mother died nineteen days before my sixth birthday. Devastated, my father moved us to another state so we could live with his parents. I overheard my father and grandmother decide to simply skip my birthday, thinking I would not be aware of that day. My six-year-old mind concluded they didn't think I was worth celebrating. That was the first of the birthday parties I didn't have.
On this, my 59th birthday, secure in my adulthood, I asked this treasured group of friends to help me celebrate my ninth birthday.
Some guests quickly snapped the paper hats on their heads and blew their party blowers at the prissy ones who adjusted the elastic over their hairdos.
Children play games at parties, and we weren't to be outdone. Cat, who had just had a hip replacement, managed to get down on her knees to join in a game of jacks around our rugged old six-foot coffee table. Genea went first. She got all the way to the threesies only because she hadplayed with her grandkids the week before. When Myrna bounced the ball, it flew across the table. We let her try again and again until she finally picked up all the jacks in onesies. Then it was Patti's turn. When she missed, she glared at Myrna. 'Look what you made me do,' she sassed.
'You started it!' replied Myrna, flowing into a nine-year-old attitude. Becky, who spends much of her time speaking to women's groups, crumpled to the floor laughing.
'Enough's enough,' I giggled. 'Let's eat the ice cream and cake.'
The pretend nine-year-olds grunted and moaned as we helped each other back to a standing position. Gladly we went to the dining room table, a place where our bodies felt much more at home.
Duncan Hines had helped me make a great chocolate cake as I pretended to be both my mother and my nine-year-old self. I knew it was good—because I ate a chunk that stuck in the pan. The white frosting had stood in lovely peaks—until I tried to decorate it. It was supposed to say, 'Happy Birthday, Twink' in yellow, redand blue. My handiwork caused purples, greens and oranges to swirl with the primary colors in a mass of modern art. When Becky brought in the cake, I announced, 'I made it myself!'
Everyone sang 'Happy Birthday' to me. The joy of all my should-have-been birthdays welled up in a childlike excitement. They sang to me because they loved me. On my birthday we celebrated me.
I had never felt worthy enough for anyone to bring me a gift. Now, with all this attention, I knew my true friends had spent time and money on me. Cautiously I reached for a present. 'Open the big one first,' Patti demanded.
Did she know it was from my husband? Slowly, with a growing sense of wonder, I took off the ribbon and wrapping paper with pictures of baby dolls. My eyes opened wide. A Betsy Wetsy! I fumbled to get her out of the box and then held her tight. My own doll! She wasn't soft, but oh, she cuddled so well. It was difficult to let her go. My adult took over and I knew it was right to pass her around.
'Don't give her milk because it makes her stink.' Ruth wrinkled up her nose and made us all nine again.
'Open mine next.'
'No, mine's right here.'
Each present had a kid's card and a personal note. The card on the sticker kit said, 'Because I love you! Stick to who you are.'
Becky's card read, 'To a child who has grown up to be God's precious princess.' After I unwrapped the big box, I found a gift wrapped in grown-up paper. It contained a plastic silver tiara witha huge pretend sapphire in the center. For the rest of the afternoon I was a princess.
As the party came to a close, each girl drew a favor out of the 'favor box' in the center of the table. The little figurines were suitable for girls—or for women who want to remember being girls for a day.
'Twink, you're a great nine-year-old. This was such fun.' The grannies shared hugs all around. Becky hugged the princess. 'Thanks for letting us play a part in your healing. You are radiant.'
That day a forgotten part of me grew up. The message children learn from their birthday parties is now mine. I am valuable and worth celebrating.