Once upon a time there was a usually sweet boy who lived with a little old woman and her friends in a big yellow building in a small gray town. The boy was usually sweet, which means that sometimes he was not, but only rarely. The little old woman was neither particularly little nor particularly old but this is a story so bear with me until snip snap snout this tale's told out.
When the usually sweet boy was about to turn six years old, the little old woman and her friends decided to have a party for him. They wanted to give him all the things he wanted and celebrate him with all the things he loved. In the weeks before the special day, the little old woman and her friends cleverly asked questions, all feigned innocence and misdirection. What, one friend inquired, might be the usually sweet boy's favorite food? And this friend then began gathering the ingredients to make that special food for dinner. What sweets, another friend (who was at the time pregnant with a future usually sweet boy) inquired, might be the usually sweet boy's heart's desire? And this friend then waddled into the kitchen and commenced to bake enough chocolate chip cookies to feed a small army of preschoolers. The third friend bought a puzzle with characters that the usually sweet boy loved. And the little old woman doesn't even remember now what she was planning, because what happened next wiped her memory clear.
On the morning of the day that the usually sweet boy's birthday was to be celebrated, the little old woman tiptoed into his room to wake him, as she had done on every birthday morning before. She held the usually sweet boy in her arms and told him the story of how he was born, which I might write down some other day and then nest in here, nested stories are cool. But today just this story. So the little old woman told the usually sweet boy his story, and then held out her hand to take him into the kitchen to see the pile of cookies and hear all the best wishes from the people who loved him on his special day.
At the doorway, the usually sweet boy tugged at the little old woman's hand. "For my birthday," he said, with the voice of someone who has just realized some of his dreams could come true, and has decided to harness that power.... "I want a cake. A cake with trains and cars and Harry Potter on it."
"Oh!" exclaimed the little old woman. "It's a little late to arrange that. We will have a nice birthday party, but we can't get a cake that fancy at this point."
"Then I do not want a birthday at all," replied the usually sweet boy.
The little old woman paused. A tiny piece of her heart crumbled. "Hm." she said, and tried to keep a neutral tone. "Well, you think about that a little. I'm going to go start breakfast." She went to the kitchen, where the pregnant friend was probably trying to choke down an egg because she did that every morning for her baby, even though she didn't like eggs. A lot of parenting is doing things we don't enjoy so that our children grow into strong and reasonable people. That sentence is called foreshadowing and it is also the moral of the story. The little old woman told the pregnant friend the story about the cake request, and she was very sad when she told it, because she could see the future even before you can.
The pregnant friend went to the usually sweet boy's room to talk sense into him, since sometimes the little old woman got carried away with emotion and what was needed was a cool head. The usually sweet boy told the pregnant friend that he wanted a cake with trains and cars and Harry Potter or he did not want a birthday at all.
Back in the kitchen, the pregnant friend and the little old woman were joined by the jolly friar friend, who actually was more like Mr Spock than a jolly friar but once a pseudonym always a pseudonym. The jolly friar friend thought that the pregnant friend and the little old woman were taking things a little too seriously, and he went into the usually sweet boy's room to speak in his magical calm voice, which was known on two continents for its ability to soothe savage beasts of two and four legs. Murmuring sounds through the door were promising, but after five minutes the jolly friar returned to the kitchen to proclaim the sad conclusion: cake with trains and cars and Harry Potter or no birthday.
The little old woman and the pregnant friend and the jolly friar friend conferred. On the one hand, plans had been made. On the other hand, the changeling in the usually sweet boy's bedroom had to be stopped. What to do? When the third friend joined them, the friend of mighty naps, he listened to the story and went back to bed. Sadly, they all concluded that this was the way of things: a cake with trains and cars and Harry Potter was not going to happen, and the magical day of cookies and favorite foods and fun puzzles was finished before it even began.
The little old woman will confess here that she cried a little.
The little old woman took the usually sweet boy to preschool that day as usual and worked that day as usual. The pregnant friend and the jolly friar friend and the friend of mighty naps also had their days as usual. There was nothing else to do. It was not really a day as usual, it was a day of heavy hearts and the cookies were eaten without celebration. I'd say they were bitter but they were actually probably perfectly delicious. That night the family had dinner as usual and went to bed as usual.
The next morning the little old woman went into the usually sweet boy's room to wake him up. Sitting in bed, still blinking away sleep, the usually sweet boy said, "So... yesterday? When I cancelled my birthday? That was really dumb, huh?" And the little old woman agreed that it had been. "So can I have my birthday now?" asked the usually sweet boy. And the little old woman replied sadly that no, he could not. The usually sweet boy hung his head sadly and dragged his feet into the kitchen.
In the years after that, the usually sweet boy had many adventures and many wonderful days and some sad days, too, but he never again acted like an entitled ass, and he never got a cake with trains and cars and Harry Potter. He grew into an aspiring artist, a beautiful boy, a creative cook, a dynamic dancer, and so on all the way through the alphabet. And the little old woman could not be happier or prouder.
Happy Eighteenth Birthday, Squire. You are my heart.