by Cindy Hester
Since April is my birthday month, I thought I would share a true story from my childhood that still makes me laugh to this day. It’s hard to believe 50 years have gone by since it took place. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed recounting it. Cindy
I have always heard it said if you want a job done right, you've got to do it yourself. Well, I guess that theory must have hit home with me at an early age. It was early spring, and my 6th birthday was just around the corner. I really don't know how it snowballed so out of control. I just remember innocently swinging out on the playground at recess and someone mentioning my upcoming birthday. One thing led to another and of course the subject of a party came up. The next thing I know everyone wants to know if they are invited. Me being the people pleasing child I was, I invited them all!
I was never much of a party planner, but I had a friend who could plan a trip to the bathroom and make it seem like a vacation. Before I knew it, I was obeying orders by creating and distributing hand-written invitations to well over 20 of my friends at school. I can remember not being too terribly worried because I never expected they would actually show up.
As I began getting positive responses from almost everyone, the fact I had not yet told my parents about the party began to sink in. My stomach churned every time I thought about the dilemma. If I told Momma and Daddy, they might say no, and I had already said everyone could come. But if I didn't say something, there would be no cake or punch, or worse, I could be in major trouble!
The days rocked on to that fateful Friday of the party. I stood miserably in the bus line with all of those children headed to my house with presents. My momma still knew nothing of the mayhem that was about to descend upon her. Little did I know she had been planning a family party on Saturday at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother was baking my favorite cake, and all of my cousins were planning to attend. Dad had been preaching a revival that week, and I am sure she had not had time to clean house for a party much less bake a birthday cake.
I remember one of my friend's moms running up with my present handing it quickly to her daughter who was waiting in the bus line with all of the other kids headed to my house. She told her daughter to be sure and call whenever the party was over. Inside I my conscious silently shouted "TELL HER THERE IS NO PARTY!!!" but nothing would come out of my mouth!
The whole bus ride home I was sick at my stomach. You have to understand, back then there were no Party City stores, and grocery stores did not yet have pre-baked birthday cakes - at least not in small towns. A birthday party was usually a big family celebration with home made cakes and punch.
The bus finally screeched to a halt in front of my house and children began pouring out one after the other until around twenty-five kids were running in my front yard. There stood Mom, her hair rolled in bobby pins and tied in a scarf. She wore no makeup and had a look of absolute horror on her face. If looks could kill, I probably wouldn't have lived past the age of six.
God bless her. She must have looked past the anger and panic she had to be experiencing to see my trembling lower lip and the big tears about to spill down my cheeks. She decided to refrain from embarrassing me in front of my friends. Instead, she went inside and began calling my aunt and a few others to join us (and to help bake a cake, and bring ice cream and something to drink.)
We played Red Rover, chase and dodge ball. I opened presents and played with friends until parents began arriving. It actually turned out to be a really good party. (Although it was the last I planned on my own!!)
I did have to sit through a long, long lecture on honesty and respect, and I did have to dry the dishes every night for about a month...but I sure got some good presents! All that said, though, my Mom inadvertently did get me back the next year.
I had the biggest crush in second grade on this boy. He had these big green eyes, and I thought he was soooo cute. Luckily I drew his name for our school classroom Christmas party (that was before we had to worry about offending anyone by celebrating Christmas.) Well, it just so happens I knew the perfect present for him. Perry Brothers had the coolest metal Tonka truck that I just knew he would love. I figured he would really think I was the coolest girl in school whenever he opened that present.
Well, to put it mildly, it was a rough morning...I was nervous, and I forgot his present! The school let me call Mom to bring it to the party so he would have something to open. Mom was a little late, but I just knew it would be worth it all whenever he opened my best gift ever. All other presents had been opened and it seemed almost like a movie. It was perfect. Everyone was standing around his desk watching. The anticipation grew to a fevered pitch. Then, much to my horror, he holds up a pair of huge granny panties and a floral house dress! Just what every little boy ever wished for! His face turned blood red, and with a puzzled look on his face he looked at me as though I had pulled a prank on purpose. I am not sure he ever spoke to me again!
Poor Momma had gotten the boxes mixed up and brought my great-aunt's present instead of his truck! At first I was so angry and embarrassed. However, the anger and embarrassment only lasted until the moment I Iooked up and saw past my anger at her trembling lower lip and the big tears about to spill down her cheeks. I remembered the grace she had shown to me the day I showed up with 25 uninvited guests for a birthday party she ended up hosting without any preparation.
I probably did give her a long lecture that day on the way home as we later laughed recounting the story to my aunt and my grandmother. Somehow I don't think I was able to get her to dry the dishes for a month as punishment for her crime. Instead we decided to call it even. Little did I know, I had begun to learn one of the most important lessons I would ever take with me in life..."Gratitude is born in the heart that takes the time to count up past mercies."