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The Best Things in Life are...Unexpected

I was six years old, a first grader.  I got the invitation to the birthday party, and immediately felt that sinking feeling in my stomach.  Plainly put, I didn't want to go.  The guest of honor was not one of the cool kids.  (If there is such a thing as a "cool kid" in first grade.)  Let's call her Candy.  Candy had been held back to repeat first grade.  She was significantly bigger in stature than the rest of us.  She wasn't exactly nice.  She definitely didn't have many friends, but for some reason, she had chosen to invite me to the party.  Maybe it was because instead of openly ridiculing her, I just didn't say anything...much.

I couldn't help but harbor some anger towards her.  She was the reason I had gotten my name on the board earlier in the year, which would end up being the only time that ever happened to me in elementary school.  (I've never claimed to be a rebel.  In fact, I think if you look up goodie-two-shoes in the dictionary, you might  find a photo of me during my elementary school years.)  We were having a lesson on something-or-other.  The actual subject escapes me, as do the majority of the other details surrounding my first grade year.  Whatever it was, our whole class was having trouble grasping the concept.  That's when Candy raised her hand obnoxiously and piped up with a know-it-all answer and an air of superiority.  Instead of being proud for her, I said, "You just know it because you already did it last year!  You failed!"

Needless to say, that's when the teacher wrote my name on the board.

It wasn't nice, but I wasn't saying it to be malicious.  I was jealous, but I was stating what I thought was a harmless fact.  Turns out, it wasn't so harmless.  For either of us.  Candy survived the ridicule by retreating into her seat with a slump.  I went into the bathroom and cried because I got my name on the board.

Evidently though, that event scarred me a lot more than it did her.  Because there I was holding the invitation in my hand.

I took it home and showed my mom.  "I don't wanna go, Mommy!", I pleaded.

My mom looked me straight in the eyes and said, "You're going."

And that was that.

I'm not sure what it was that prompted my mom to come to that decision.  She was not the type to enjoy running us around to extra-curricular activities, parties, play-dates, etc.  She was and remains to this day a home-body.  But for whatever reason, she felt like it was important for me to go to Candy's birthday party.

Maybe she was afraid that no one else would come.

As it turns out, not many people did.  Almost no one from our class, save one or two.

When we pulled up to her house, I was terrified.  I was never a super-social child.  I've always been painfully shy, and have only recently learned how not to be completely socially awkward.  (And believe me, I have a loooonnnng way to go.)  I just knew that the party would be something to be endured.  A miserable experience.  And who would I play with?  None of my friends were there.

My mom drove off with a wave and told me she'd be back in a couple of hours.

And there I was.  

For the next couple of hours, I was at the mercy of my mortal enemy (at least...that's what she was in my mind).

By the end of those couple hours, I would be proven wrong.  The party was a huge success.  In fact, it ranks right up there in my memory as the greatest birthday party I ever attended.  Candy was happy and elated to have company.  We played outside, swinging on a tire swing mounted on a sturdy tree branch.  We took turns with a broom wailing away at a pinata.  We giggled until our cheeks hurt.  We painted an awesome ceramic party favor on her grandparents' back porch.  We wrapped it all up with cake and ice cream on a wooden picnic table in the shade of the tire-swing tree.  It was the perfect afternoon for a small gathering of six year old girls.

And I thought I didn't even want to go.

Because the memory was on my mind, I gave my mom a call.  I asked her if she even remembered this seemingly insignificant event some twenty-one years ago.  She did.  I asked her, once and for all, why she "made" me go.  The answer:  "I just felt like you should."

I can think of about ten different lessons I learned by going to this birthday party.  It blows me away to think how such a trivial event in the grand scheme of this life had such a profound effect on me.  It boggles my mind to think that my mom probably had no idea that by insisting I go to a birthday party I would walk away  wiser.  Even at the tender, young age of six.  And that when I was twenty-seven years old, I would think back with gratitude to my mom for forcing me to go to the party, where I had the time of my six-year-old life.  Where I learned that sometimes we need to give people second, third, and fourth chances.  Sometimes we need a few extra chances ourselves.  Sometimes, often times we need to step outside of our comfort zones and experience things we would otherwise talk ourselves out of doing.  Almost always, being nice pays off in the end.  Sometimes, often times mother knows best.  That you just never know what your kids will remember and take away from something.

Today, I'm unwrapping these gifts - these valuable lessons - made possible by a simple imperative made by my unwittingly wise mom.

Thanks, Mom.  

tuesdays unwrapped at cats


5 comments:

SmallWorld at Home said...

What a beautiful post. How wonderful for you to look back all those years and find such a lesson in memory.

Sherri said...

The mom in me loves that you still remembered this "lesson" so many years later...and that your mom really did know best. But the kid inside me was back in elementary school with you, feeling those feelings and NOT wanting to go! Great writing, loved the story. We sure DO have an impact on our kids, I am finding...even years later.

Debbie said...

Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!! I love this post in so many ways and think it might possibly best your best written ever. Considering how I feel about your previous posts, that's really saying something.

Sharon Kirby said...

Jennie - I have just discovered your blog (Thanks, Debbie) and am joining you on your journey (only 'cuz you promised it wasn't a cult!)
This was a wonderful post. So many lessons. There are a couple of times that really stick out in my mind when my parents MADE me do something - and it turned out to be wonderful. One was when my dad forced me to attend the high school group at our new church - the other when my mom told me it was time to get a job or go back to college (FYI - I went back to college...and finished...thanks, Mom!)

GOD BLESS you as you seek to mother your children well - praying for God's wisdom, and His grace to cover our mistakes!!!

GOD BLESS!

Patti said...

That was a WONDERFUL story!!! And YOU are a fantastic writer! I loved that!

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