Still, it was a great adventure moving to a new house. I got a new room, and it was even bigger than my old room. I changed schools and I was so excited because I got to go to school with some of the girls I had gone to preschool with. There was a set of twins, Amy and Laurie, I was especially excited about being in school with again. I always thought that they were so pretty and I was entranced by the idea of twins. They were identical twins, and I guess when you are 8 that makes it even more exciting.
It was only after a few months of living there that I realized that things were different for me at this school. There had been a sleepover party, I learned one Monday. I don't even really remember being upset or thinking I should have been invited. But I remember when the girls realized I was listening. Amy said "I'm sorry we didn't invite you. Our Mom says you are poor now and you probably couldn't afford to buy us presents."
The other kids didn't laugh to their credit. In fact they just sort of stared and the subject was changed. I went home and cried and asked my mom if we were poor now. I didn't understand what had changed? We just moved to a new house. Why did that make us poor? I told her what Amy had said, and that Amy and Laurie had a birthday slumber party and they didn't invite me because I was poor. She held me while I cried and then she told me I should go play or listen to records.
Eventually I smelled something like vanilla baking. I went into the kitchen and my mom was cutting a round cake and making a heart. It was kind of like this.
She asked me if I thought it looked like a heart and of course I did so she told me to make some icing and we'd have some cake. While I frosted it she said "I think we should have a Valentine's day party. What do you think?"
I thought this was the craziest idea I had ever heard, no one ever had a Valentine's party at their house. But mom started looking up different kinds of punch we could make, and talking about treats she could make and before long we were making a party list. She said I could invite as many girls over for this party as I wanted.
She made games, she bought prizes. She set up the stereo so we could play records and decorated my dining room in swaths of pink ribbon and hearts hanging from the ceiling. It looked a little bit like a high school prom, in fact. When the girls came over there were fancy cups from my grandmas for punch, there was heart cake and it was this amazing event that was unlike any party I ever had before or after. I remember there was so much laughter, and everyone was so excited at winning the prizes mom had gotten for the games. She even made little gift bags for party favors to take home.
I had invited every girl in my class, including Amy and Laurie. It never occurred to me until I was driving home today, remembering this amazing party, that my mom threw that party so that the other kids wouldn't think I was poor. She never said anything about it, except that she thought we should have a Valentine's party. At the time I thought it was because she'd figured out how to make a heart cake.
Such is the mind of an 8 year old.
We didn't have a lot of money.
But I was never, EVER poor. Not in the way that mattered, anyway.