The best birthday I’ve ever had was the year I turned 8. While most parents rented out a party room to celebrate birthdays at the skating rink in 1990, my mom rented out the entire skating rink. She is an includer, and she doesn’t like to leave people out, so renting out the whole facility meant every child in my grade would be invited to the party.
Yes, every single child. The popular ones. The quiet ones. The annoying boys and the mean girls. The booger pickers and the weirdos. And most importantly to my mom, the kids who never got invited. Most moms would be proud of their attempt to include every child and not think of it another moment. I wasn’t raised by most moms. Knowing the details of a particularly hard home life, my mom went out of her way to pick up my classmate, Patty, on the way to my party.
Patty was excitedly waiting on her front porch and ran out to our car with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. I do not remember a single present I got that year. I do not remember skating around the rink. But I will never forget the face of a girl being invited to a party for the first time.
My mom never bragged about this. There was no life lesson lecture on the way to pick her up. My mom simply paid attention to a little girl with special needs from a difficult home, who was too often excluded for her differences, and she taught me to see that this girl was a lot like me.