So after almost 15 years, Hallee wants a birthday party. See, the last time she enjoyed a birthday party, hers or anyone else’s for that matter, she was 2. 1999, to be exact. So Prince was right! The last time we partied like it was 1999, it was, well…1999. That’s when things really started changing for us, when that bastard autism started stealing bits of my baby.
It was a Barney birthday party. My next door neighbor Mary made Hal a gorgeous, huge Barney cake with little figurines on the top. Banners, balloons, every kid from the neighborhood, all of their parents and siblings and she reveled in it. Every picture I have of that day shows Hal grinning so hard her eyes were little squinty slits in her face. She wore a orange and hot pink flowered pair of overall shorts, hot pink sandals with daisies on them and a Big Bird band-aid on her left shin. I look at those often.
That was the last year that she let anyone sing “Happy Birthday” to her without a freak-out-hands-over-ears melt down. The last year where we could have lots of noisy kids over, screaming and running around the house and yard. After that…after 2..Happy Birthday parties weren’t so happy for us. Too much noise, too many people, too much change from her day to day routine. A popped balloon could have her stimming and flapping her hands for half an hour, trying to calm herself down. So while we always had small, quiet family parties, the big celebrations were done. Until now.
I don’t know what’s prompted the change, but it is such a blessing. She’s been talking about her birthday for several months. She knows it’s in July and during summer vacation. A couple of months ago she was talking about her birthday cake (pink and white frosting, yellow cake. Always) and said, “My friends will like cake?”. I asked if she wanted her friends to come over, not quite daring to get my hopes up..and she said YES. I almost fell over. So now and then I’ve mentioned, in a very quiet, don’t spook her voice, that her birthday was coming up, did she still want her friends to come over…and by God she does.
I sent invitations to school with her during the last week before vacation started and have been pretty much giddy ever since. A party! For Hallee! Balloons! Cupcakes! Cake! Pizza! No Barney! I’m half scared, half thrilled. What if no one shows up? I’ve actually planned for this. I will run up and down the street and bang on every door and gather everyone from the neighborhood. Mail lady? You bet. Lawn guy? Get in here! Do we sing Happy Birthday? Listen…I’ve waited 15 years for this. I’m standing out on the front porch and belting that b*tch out like Pavarotti. Dogs will howl, glass will shatter, I will sing the living hell out of that song.
I’m going to take pictures like a fool, buy too many presents and drape this whole house in pink and white streamers. Sometimes with an autistic child, you’re denied many of the simple pleasures of parenthood. And sometimes, if you’re very, very lucky and if you’re very, very patient, you get one of them back.