Tuesday is my birthday.
It seems that the more of these I have, the simpler my wish list becomes. The list that used to be filled with Fashion Plates, roller skates, neon bracelets, and a Bruce Springsteen poster has been whittled down to just a few items: peace, quiet, and for someone to ring my bell.
The October I turned six, my parents treated me to a birthday party at Happy Joe’s Pizza Shoppe (with an “e”). Surrounded by friends and a pitcher or two of Pepsi, we ate, laughed, and burped and watched table after table of giggly birthday kids receive the royal treatment from the Happy Joe’s staff, who presented each birthday boy and girl with a cake, ice cream, and a song, accompanied by (most importantly) a cowbell.
Yes, even at that tender age, I understood the importance of the cowbell.
After eating all the pizza and opening all the presents, it was little Jules’ turn for the restaurant serenade.
The wait staff paraded out with a chocolate and whipped-cream coated masterpiece, ice cream, and candles. They sang, they clapped, they cheered.
But they did not ring the bell.
Let me repeat, no cowbell.
Suddenly the cake, the presents, the pizza, the ice cream, the candles, the decorations lost all meaning, and the happy little birthday girl was morphed into the birthday diva, throwing a fit that would make Whitney Houston shake in her platform boots.
Pre-Kabala Madonna could not have made as much of a scene.
Even Kanye West would not have dared steal the moment, as I refused to breathe on, much less blow out, the candles atop my whipped-cream-and-chocolate-covered-with-a-cherry-on-top cake until that poor wait staff marched their suspender-clad selves back out to our table and did it up right.
With. A. Bell.
For the rest of my life, no matter what I do, no matter who or how I serve my fellow mankind, I will never live that down --- at least, not as long as my parents, who bore the burden of their ungrateful, demanding firstborn crying out loud about this grave injustice to the patrons in the restaurant, are still alive.
And so, in my ongoing, life-long effort to redeem myself as an “others-centered” human being, I would like to ask you all to ring – not my bell – but that of my BFF, Wheels, this week for my birthday.
Wheels is running her fifth marathon in the past three years. “Why would anyone ever do that?” you may ask. Knowing that until 2006, when she had found herself separated (from her alcoholic ex-husband) (with three children) (ages 3 weeks to 3 ½ years at the time), she had never even run to catch a bus, I often ask the same thing.
Her answer every time? Her three beautiful boys, all of whom - ALL of whom - have been diagnosed with Autism.
Wheels is getting ready to run this fifth and final marathon to raise money and awareness for the Organization for Autism Research (OAR).
But Wheels not only runs, she laughs. She laughs fully and often and easily. (And she has great legs and an enviable rack too, but that’s not the point.) As she is quick to point out:
Autism may serve me a drink that’s half-empty, but my glass is always half full. For example:
Half-empty: My son can’t talk.
Half-full: My son can’t sass me.
Half-empty: My son will only wear purple shirts.
Half-full: I don’t stress about his school clothes everyday.
Half-empty: My son arranges his toys in rows.
Half-full: The playroom is very tidy.
Half-empty: My son isn’t mindful of his successes.
Half-full: My son isn’t mindful of his failures.
Half-empty: My son watches the same movie repeatedly.
Half-full: My son is very easy to please.
Half-empty: My sons attend 14 therapy sessions a week.
Half-full: I am never bored.
Half-empty: My son can’t use scissors.
Half-full: My son can’t cut his brother’s hair.
Half-empty: My son can’t read the newspaper.
Half-full: He thinks the world is wonderful.
Half-empty: There is no known cure for Autism.
Half-full: There will be.
So this year, all I ask for my 30-something-th birthday is that anyone who has ever gotten a lift or a chuckle from my weekly bell-ringing take the time to check out her page, read her story, and maybe even kick in a few dollars if you are so inclined.
In exchange, I promise with all of my heart to never go all diva again.