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The Stampede
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It was my son Stevie’s 16th birthday. As I got out the party plates and napkins saved for the kids’ birthdays. I remembered birthday parties of the past with Stevie. Like the year he turned seven, and everyone gave Stevie super soakers on a hot late May day. Luckily the party was held in the backyard because we all got into a huge super soaker fight. I turned a corner to soak a kid when I saw parents walk up to pick one of the little cherubs up. Oooops! We’ve had birthdays outdoors in parks or our yard, at Chuckie Cheese which always left me frazzled even though I was accustomed to several kids around me. The party was always filled with laughing kids and good fun.

15-year-old Melissa who had just started wearing all black every day complete with scary makeup and my adorable freckle-faced six -year-old Megan who was still young and innocent, helped me set the table and figure out approximately how many kids there were. My younger son Jeremy who was 13, was upstairs with Stevie and his gang of friends. When they arrived, they didn’t hang out to play with balloons or waste any time. They all immediately ran up into the “Bedroom” where the teenagers hang out. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure exactly how many teenagers there were. I had somehow lost track. Floyd-the-Dog, Jeremy’s dog, hung with them as well.

I knew that the pizzas I had ordered would lure them all downstairs, and I looked forward to enjoying a party with them. So did little Megan who was always excited to celebrate a birthday. The cake sat on the countertop all ready to go. Melissa had baked it herself and decorated it with Megan’s help. She was already an expert at baking birthday cakes (NOTE: and would remain the expert til this day, at age 37. She still bakes cakes for my grandkids and the whole family in CA.)

It blew my mind that I had a 16-year-old and that all three of my older kids had entered the dreaded “teen” years. Things were changing so fast. I was glad I had little Megan so that I could cling to those special times when they’re kids even if I was a single mom raising all the kids alone. It didn’t matter. The kids meant more to me than anything else in the whole world.

All three of us jumped when we heard a knock at the door. It was the pizza. I had ordered several because we had a whole group of hungry teenage boys. Most were pepperoni, one was plain cheese, and a couple had everything but the kitchen sink on them. I thanked the pizza delivery guy and gave him a five dollar tip, feeling generous though I normally couldn’t afford to buy that many pizzas at once. J.C. Pizzeria down the street from us was the best.

I set the pizzas down on the kitchen table and yelled at the top of my lungs, “PIZZA’S HERE!!!!!!”

Suddenly I heard loud bumping noises which practically made the townhouse shake. The noise became a blaring, loud roar like a stampede of antelope I saw on TV recently, or maybe elephants.

The stampede sound became louder and louder and suddenly a group of teenage boys burst into the kitchen along with Floyd-the-Dog who galloped to the front. In seconds, all the pizza boxes were open at once as hands grabbed two or three pieces at a time and Floyd-the-Dog made off with a piece of pepperoni pizza. It happened so quickly I wasn’t sure who was who or what was happening.

I know Melissa grabbed a couple of pieces of cheese pizza for herself and Megan. It was fend for yourself time here — only those quick enough got pieces of pizza.

Then the entire herd stampeded back up to The Bedroom with their pieces of pizza leaving empty pizza boxes strewn about all over the table and one the floor in their wake.

Megan and Melissa munched on their cheese pizzas.

“But what about the party, Mommy?” Megan asked, looking a little sad.

I shrugged. Well, maybe they’ll all come down for cake,” I offered.

“Make sure you grab a piece before they get here,” Melissa said.

I sighed. Everything was changing way too fast.


That is really sweet. You capture the essence of that birthday wonderfully.

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