She had the table all set for seventeen (count ‘em), and the pancake mix was out on the countertop with a bowl.
“Pancake party, Mom? Chocolate chip pancakes?”
It was six a.m. on a Saturday.
I hoped no one was really coming.
“Are you hungry, Stella?”
“Do you want me to make chocolate chip pancakes just for you? There’s no party. Only eight of us today.” I said. "And everyone's still sleeping."
“No. It’s a party!” she insisted.
She’s always loved parties. If she gained a year for every time we’ve sung “Happy Birthday, dear Stella” then she’d be in her eighties. When she was little, we used to pull out little birthday candles and put them in anything, anytime, just because her happiness and delight was so sincere and contagious. When she asked, we adorned muffins, pancakes, even mashed potatoes. Once we were at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, and Stell told the owner it was her birthday. So with much pomp and circumstance, they served up a plate of sticky rice, formed into a cake, glowing with a candle atop. She was ecstatic. The entire restaurant joined in the singing. Her little brother did get a bit jealous with all Stella’s birthdays, but he’s come around. She’s initiated many impromptu parties for him, too. Her surprise and joy cast a tone of happiness into each day. Why shouldn’t we celebrate a person we love, whenever we want to?
“Today is your birthday, Mom.” She smiles, caressing my cheek. “Happy Birthday to you!”
Thank God for paper plates.