To the right is the only picture I have of that day. My three best friends from first grade were there (counter clockwise) Ericka Couch, Lisa Smith, and Beth Fruechtenicht. There's a board game sitting in front of us...but I couldn't tell you what it was and without this picture, I wouldn't even have remembered that I had The Flintstones for birthday hats and blowers. I couldn't tell you what was on my cake - if I had one number candle or seven.
What I do remember - as though it was yesterday - is that I was a very happy girl. I don't know if you can see that from my face, but gosh, I was happy.
And why was I happy? Two specific reasons - the guests and the best birthday present that I've ever received in my entire life.
The guests were my three best friends from Indian Village Elementary school and also, members of my family (aunts, uncles, cousins + my mom's cousins and their kids). All of us, squeezed together in that small amount of space sounds claustrophobic, doesn't it?! At the time, it didn't seem anything but fun. I'm sure that my mom, though, was frantic and worried because later on (much later on as an adult), she told me that she ran out of cake and food because so many people showed up that she wasn't expecting.
I probably received a fair number of birthday gifts that year but you know what - that's a blur to me. The only gift that really mattered is what my parents got me.
For the big event, I was shuttled out on to the front porch area (this area wasn't a "porch" per se as much as it was an enclosed part of our house - like a mudroom - with no heat). I was instructed to face the outdoor window and no peeking!!! That window had a view to my neighbors houses across the street - the Wooden's and the Boice's.
I remember the crowd of people who were all standing behind me, waiting for the revelation of the big moment. And then my mom said, You can turn around now.
My smile was the biggest smile you can ever imagine and I squealed with delight. It was everything I ever wanted - a big girl bike. It was a lime green bike...equipped with a white flowered basket, multi-colored plastic streamers hanging out of the handle bars, and a banana seat.
That bike stayed with me for most of my childhood. If it would have had an odometer on it, it would have had thousands of miles racked up on it because as a kid living on Cedar Crest Circle - that's what we did. We rode our bikes. We didn't have to have a destination...we just rode them. Sometimes we rode them by ourselves (in a circle - Cedar Crest, Pinecrest, Cedar Crest) and sometimes we rode in a pack....taking the same route, perhaps stopping at Scott''s Court to play a game of kickball, or sneaking off to play in the forbidden ditch (catching tadpoles), or making our way up Sandhill to play in the area that would later take the life of our friend Delores.
There was a third reason why this was the best birthday ever. It was the last birthday I remember where I wasn't conscious of my father's drinking issues. At my party, I didn't remember that he wasn't there until just before the unveiling of my bike. I didn't remember that he was drunk off his ass and he brought people to my party that I didn't even know.
And why didn't I remember these things? Because my mom made sure that I was distracted so as not to notice. She wanted my birthday to be the kind of birthday that all little girls deserve to have....one filled with lots of happy memories. It worked.
Mommy, it was the best birthday ever and as long as I live, I will never forget how special I felt that day.