People, Presence, Cake

People. Presents. Cake. These were the wishes of my six year old for his 7th birthday party.

My youngest is a people person if there ever was one. He thrives on being in the presence of others, making them laugh, and enjoying their company. So when he requested people, presents, and cake, I said, “I can do that.”

And I did what any 21st century mom would do. I sent out a Facebook invite to all my friends with children, emphasis on MY friends. Everyone who was invited to the party was either related to us or a friend of mine. Several years ago my friends’ children were also my children’s friends, however, 5 years, 3 houses, and an entire country between us seemingly erases young people’s memories.

As the party neared, my youngest would ask who was attending the party. So I would tell him, and each time I finished a family’s names his follow-up question was, “How do we know them?” My response was always the same, “I know them.”

On the day of his party, anticipation was high. Over 50 friends and family members had RSVP’d yes, and of the 50, my son could identify 3 or 4 by sight and name. The number of people he knew didn’t matter to him, it only mattered that people were coming to celebrate his birthday.

As guests arrived, I heard the same story repeatedly from all my friends, “My children kept asking whose party we were coming to and I kept explaining I was friends with the birthday boy’s mom.” Sound familiar?

Slip-n-slides, back porch basketball, and sprinklers entertained children of all ages, before fruit salad, pizza, and cake became the main event. Toward the end of the evening we sang “Happy Birthday” as Luke anxiously waited to blow out the number 7 candle on his baseball-themed cake. As we neared the end of the song, singing, “Happy Birthday dear Luke,” my friend yelled out, “Who’s Luke?” and all the children looked around because, honestly, most of them still had no idea who Luke was, unless they were the lucky few crammed up at the counter with the birthday boy and the cake.

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I laughed so hard at that yelled question, because it was spot on. Who’s Luke? Only the adults knew yet it didn’t matter to a single child, especially the birthday boy. He was in it for the presents and the cake.

His birthday began with a request for 3 very specific items: people, presents, and cake. When his birthday ended those 3 things had come to fruition. What unfolded in the middle was truly amazing.

The middle revealed the real present of the evening: presence. The presence of those who had known him his whole life even if he couldn’t remember. The presence of those who drove upwards of an hour just to be with him on his special day. The presence of those who flew in early to be with him on his birthday. The presence of those who thoughtfully ordered a cake, picked up pizza, and prepared food. The presence of those who put their own special days on the back burner to give him the spotlight on his birthday. The presence of family and friends old and new (to him) celebrating another year of his life.

As my husband and I rehashed the party post cleanup we were struck by the presence of the people around us. We haven’t lived in my home state for 5 years. We haven’t been back to visit it in 2. Yet, my parents’ house was full, full of people, presence, and of course cake. That realization was enough to make me a little teary.

When Luke lay down to sleep that evening, I asked him if his birthday party was what he had hoped it would be. He nodded his head with a resounding yes, and added, “I loved playing with my old friends. I mean my new friends because we don’t remember meeting each other.”

People. Presents. Cake. The makings of an excellent 7th birthday party.

People. Presence. Cake. The makings of an excellent life.

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