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Broken Birthday

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It was a cool autumn day, October 5, 2004'my twelfth birthday. School was out for the day, and students swarmed out of Landstuhl middle school like bees leaving a hive. Amid the congested crowd, I gleefully emerged from the dim hallway into the fresh, hazy air. As the children dispersed and skipped briskly to their busses, I eagerly rushed to my mother's turquoise van, curiously wondering what events she had planned. My mother always went to an extreme on my family's birthdays. Not only did we get a party with our friends before our birthday, we also did special things on the actual day of our birthday'often including massive amounts of cake and extra presents. I was imagining all sorts of different scenarios dreamily as I spotted my mom, waving her hands excitedly over her head like a small child. Little did I know that my birthday would not be nearly as delightful as I had envisioned.

The day started off well as my mom told me that her friend Michaela, my little sister D.J., and her friend Melissa were waiting for us at the park for cake. As we made our way anxiously to the park, the light breeze blew in our hair; the sun looked as if it were behind a piece of frosted glass in the metallic gray sky. A loud 'Happy Birthday' greeted me when we arrived at the little playground. The swings were slightly swaying in a zephyr. To their right was a little xanthous slide faded from the sun, and a gliding monkey bar hanging high above the red asphalt. A cake sat atop a squatting picnic table in the withering grass. Blue and green icing spelled out my name in flowing cursive.

Deciding to stay awhile before having cake, my mom and Michaela went for a walk around the perimeter of the park, collecting sticks for craft projects. Melissa'with her short, spindly legs'started eagerly toward the slide, crawling up the enormous steps with great tribulation. My little sister gazed up toward me with big, pitiful eyes. Pointing with a slender finger to the monkey bar, she longingly asked, 'Will you push me?' Compared to most four-year olds, she was quite an intrepid child; I knew she would not be the least bit timid, so I gently lifted her up. Firmly gripping the bars chipped paint, her fingers appeared infinitesimal; her diminutive body elevated over the pavement like a trapeze artist in a circus.

Testing her strength, I nudged her softly forward, observing her firm grasp on the handle. The bar groaned faintly as it slid down the rail, stopping gingerly at the end with the light pinging sound of metal-on-metal. Her high, silvery voice impatiently asked me to push her faster. Since she seemed to have a solid hold on the bar, I conceded, sending her down the track a little more swiftly. A strawberry-blonde ponytail waved behind her like a tail on a kite. Musical giggles wafted through her rose-colored lips. 'Again, again!' she trilled as the bar came to the end of the course. Playfully, I pushed her again with the same thrust as before, but this time, as she reached the end, the bar jerked forcefully, sending her sailing clumsily through the air.

She landed with a crack, her arm smashing against the dense ground. Gathering around her, my mom, Michaela and I checked on her to make sure she was okay. A few measly tears rolled down her cheeks, but she assured us that she was fine. When asked if she wanted to go to the doctor, she declined, stating that she would rather go to the dentist. She looked unharmed, and her tears had dried, so we concluded that she was all right. The only thing that made us doubt this assumption was that she was being unusually still. For most children, this might not seem strange, but in all her four years, D.J.'s movement had never ceased. Her entire existence was defined by her perpetual motion. For this reason, and this reason alone, we decided to take her to the hospital.

While we waited in the ER, my mom called my stepfather at work and asked him to take Michaela, Melissa, and me home. After dropping Michaela and Melissa off at their house, my step-dad dropped me off at home. Unfortunately, he had to go back to work; meaning I was forced to spend my birthday afternoon alone. Stepping into the dark, empty house, I felt the overwhelming sensation of loneliness seeping through my skin. Backpack heavy in hand; I trudged to the living room, dragging it despondently behind me. Disappointment hovered overhead like a cloud as I realized that my birthday was a poor facsimile of what my mind had conjured up earlier that day. Reluctantly, I settled myself on the cozy brown rug and started my homework. Among the silence of the house, my rustling paper seemed unbearably loud. The sounds resonated off the walls and filled the melancholy space around me.

After a while, my mother called to tell me that D.J.'s arm was broken, and they would not be home until late that night. I did my homework to pass the time until they came home at around ten. By then it was my bedtime, and I felt like D.J. had ruined my birthday. I finally drifted to sleep upset at my selfish thoughts. The next day my family and I went out to dinner at my favorite restaurant'the Firehouse. D.J. was still as reckless as ever, even with her bulky cast nested in a Snoopy sling. Excitement took over as we devoured my cake, and my mother gave me a few presents, but I still felt as though this was a poor compensation for my broken birthday.





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