Saturday, July 10, 2010

An unexpected invitation to a party

We went to visit a friend with a 5-week old baby today and took a walk to a small park by her house. Though it was only 9:30 a.m. and threatening rain, there were several children there playing already.

When we arrived, a woman approached River and asked if he’d like a birthday hat.
“He’s not a member of your party,” Mark said.

“That’s OK,” she said. “We don’t want him to feel left out.”

So he played on his own while wearing a colorful cone hat. When the rain seemed imminent, we decided to leave. The party-goers also left, to a table set up under the awning of an old train station, where they had cupcakes and train-shaped cakes. Mark tried to lead River off the main sidewalk so that we wouldn’t pass so close to the cake, so that it wouldn’t be such a temptation.

But the same lady who offered him the hat approached again. “Would you like to join us for cake and cupcakes and to sing happy birthday?” she asked.

So River stood in the group of strangers and sang happy birthday to a child he didn’t know. I don’t think it mattered to him that he didn’t know anyone. For him, the birthday song and birthday cake is probably one of the most anticipation-filled moments in his life. Then he walked away with a train-shaped cake, chocolate licorice, Kit-Kats and a goody bag.

I was very surprised, though pleasantly so, at how these strangers welcomed him into the celebration. I suppose we won’t need to worry about birthday party in park protocol. With two December birthdays, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever have a party outdoors. But for those who celebrate in summer, what do you do when you celebrate in a public space? Is it common to welcome children who happen to be nearby? Or was this lady exceptionally nice?

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