I didn’t go to many birthday parties as a kid. In our neighborhood, all the kids went to each others’ parties so there was always someone’s birthday on the horizon, but outside the neighborhood, I wasn’t invited to many parties. I guess I was sort of insular and weird in school with a small circle of friends, most of whom happened to live in my neighborhood, so we were already on each others’ birthday lists.
Many school birthday parties are when popularity is tested, tried on like a sparkly new sweater. Waiting for an invitation to a birthday party was like waiting to be picked for a kickball team in gym class. Everyone knew who’d be picked first. And everyone knew who’d be picked last. But unlike in kickball, birthday parties were exclusive, and not everyone need be chosen. It can be so very hard to be the insular and weird kid.
One year, and much to my surprise and delight, Colleen Mattson invited me to her birthday party. She was a School Friend, and it wasn’t a traditional party. From what I remember, it was her family, maybe a couple of other girls and me. They took all of us out to Farrell’s for dinner and then ice cream.
Farrell’s was at the mall, and since my family rarely went out to eat, it was a huge treat for me. Farrell’s was big and loud and shiny. The menus were printed in old timey Western font, like wanted posters that Marshall Dillon had lining the walls of his office.