Editor's note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.
As I was growing up, my family celebrated birthdays as if they were national holidays. In fact, birthdays were actually more like birthweeks, and they were filled with decorations, parties, presents and cakes.
It all seemed totally normal to me, until my husband informed me his birthdays usually entailed one friend to play with and an ice cream sandwich. Horrified, I immediately asserted that for our kids, it would be all stops pulled out, every year, no questions asked.
True to my word, there was always some type of ornate birthday celebration. But by the time our son was 3, we discovered he seemed to enjoy a more understated day; as long as it included playing miniature golf and eating pizza, he was a happy boy.
I reluctantly obliged. It was his day after all, and I didn't want to force him to have a big party if he didn't want one.
And then one day, he changed his mind.
“Guys — I want a party,” he announced over dinner. “A big one. With superheroes.”
I was elated. The kid finally wanted to throw a party. I immediately got started on creating his dream celebration. We set the date, bought the decorations and ordered the cake. As we sat down to decide on a guest list, my son easily rattled off several names. When he had finished, he looked at me thoughtfully.
“Will my friends really come?”
My stomach flipped. Suddenly the worst-case scenario flooded my mind, and I was picturing a party with no guests, and a kid who was totally devastated. The stakes seemed higher than they ever were before: This time, he had asked for this party and had certain expectations for it. What if it all went wrong?
My husband — ever the voice of reason — laughed.
“People will show up,” he said.
I wasn't taking any chances. I sent the invitations, and, after a week or so, I picked up the phone. Most of our invitees confirmed, but I was still worried. The idea of disappointing this little boy was unbearable. I definitely had new appreciation for what my parents had gone through to orchestrate all of my amazing birthday memories, and I was determined to do the same for my son.
The day arrived, and butterflies took up residence in my stomach. We had the entire place decked out in superhero paraphernalia. Games were set up, activities were planned, junk food was in abundance and my son was bouncing around in excitement. I closed my eyes and said a little prayer that this would all turn out the way he had hoped.
When cars began pulling up to our house, I sighed in relief. The kids immediately started to run and play together, and when my son's aunt and uncle surprised us all by showing up in full superhero costume, the children squealed in delight and chased them around the yard.
At gift-opening time, my son was awestruck by all of his presents, and his friends eagerly helped him unwrap and admire his new treasures. The party was a hit.
Then — as if on cue — everyone became eager for cake. We lit the candles and placed the tray in front of my son.
“Make a wish,” I told him.
“I wish this day could last forever,” he said, smiling at me.
I smiled back. It was the best birthday wish I had ever heard.