Sunday, May 2, 2010


The memory of my 14th birthday party has been swimming in my head for the past couple of weeks.

My family doesn’t do big birthdays. Not that I can remember. Then again, the memory of my life at home breaks somewhere after early childhood at about five or six years old to this adolescent stage where I was anticipating my parent’s divorce and then dealing, as best I could, with the aftermath.

That year, though, I decided to plan my own party. I began telling my Mom exactly what I wanted a week—maybe two— in advance.

Even then, in the time when we are trying desperately to impress our peers, I had an appreciation for the simplicity of things.  I wanted a small get-together at my house with grilled hot dogs, my mom’s macaroni and cheese and my godmother’s famous baked-beans.

I invited three of my closest friends from school, my new best friend from church and her parents, my youth pastor, and my extended family. We sent little invitations that my Mom wrote up, and I was excited.

My birthday was on a Sunday. We went to church as usual and came back to my house afterward. The majority of those invited went to church with us and followed us back to the house, changed out of their Sundays’ best and settled in for the party.

Everyone was hungry, as people generally are, after spending the morning in church. My mom and godmother finished preparing the food in the kitchen and everyone lined up at the counter ready for the food that was assembled buffet style.

My Dad scolded me when I jumped to the front of the line and told me that guests eat first. (I will let my kids eat first on their birthdays, but it was a good lesson in hospitality.)

Embarrassed, I sat down at the table and waited for my friends from school to arrive.

And waited.

There was laughter and movement all around me when my world stopped.

I remember trying indiscreetly to get my moms attention. When I did, I whispered in her ear that my friends hadn’t shown up and no one had brought any gifts or cards (except my godmother). To the first she told me to call them and to the second she said something to the effect of so what, before she went back to being a good hostess.

I grabbed the phonebook before I sat back down at the table searching for phone numbers. I couldn’t reach anyone.

They never showed up.


I was popular growing up. People always knew my name, adults because I was the daughter of a teacher and administrator and kids because I was athletic and tried a bit of everything as a kid.

But, I’ve never had a lot of friends.

Quality over quantity became my motto somewhere along the way, when I started having to explain.

This isn’t always an issue though, until the three don’t show up.


I’ve been arguing back and forth with my Mom this past week over the phone and this weekend in person.

I’m one week away from graduation now and I’m anxious.

 Both about the actual graduation ceremony—I’m a little paranoid that they won’t call my name because this May ceremony, much bigger and more celebratory than the July ceremony isn’t really mine, since I have yet to complete my internship requirement—and my post graduation celebration.

When I got permission to walk in May, I told my mom that I wanted a small get-together after the graduation; just my family and close family friends together for an afternoon at park with hot dogs and hamburgers.

My mom got my grandma on board with the planning and addressing of the graduation announcements and invitations.

My grandma is a socialite and its spun out of control now.

While I have no idea who will actually show up, very few of the invitations have been sent to people that I actually know and feel close to.

Last night at dinner, complete with the divorced parents, my grandma and step-grandpa sister and niece and nephew, I lost it.

“I never wanted it to be something you guys would have to fuss over, I said.” Hot dogs and hamburgers at the park, I continued. That’s all I want.”

That’s all it is, my grandmother said. You can’t just do these things without any planning.

It’s not fun for me when I’m surrounded by strangers, I continued, this frustration that’s been building now overflowing.

Well, you haven’t told me any of the friends you want me to invite, my Mom said.

“I don’t have friends to invite, I keep telling you,” I snapped back.


The word friend is something pretty weighty to me, granted to only those that I know will show up.

I’m in another one of those weird transition phases with my friendships. My closest friends are in Florida, living their lives. Our communication is almost nonexistent now. Our lives are going on, moving further from the time when we were bonded so tightly.

And I’ve made a few connections here, people whose company I enjoy. But the timing, as it often is, is bad.

It’s the disappointment I’m worried about. Sitting at the table waiting while the party continues around me.

Those that do show up, however, will be greeted with a smile, warm hug, and genuine thank you.  Another lesson in hospitality I’ve learned along the way. 


Anonymous said...


shoot, girl, tell me when & where

Even though you won't come to MY cookouts ;)


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