“Please don’t spend any money on a birthday party for me, Dad,” begged Allan. “I’m a teenager now and I really need a car!”
“You need a car?” laughed Dawood. “Your mom and I don’t even have a car.”
“What if we get you a new bike instead?” asked Betty. “It’s better for the environment. And plus it’ll help you lose that extra bit of weight you’ve put on.”
“A bike’s not the same as a car,” argued Allan. He pinched his little boy belly roll and scowled.
“Allan, if I can ride my bike to the hospital while in the middle of contractions and have you delivered safely, then a bicycle should be good enough for you.”
Everyone in the family groaned.
“I can’t make out with a girl in the back seat of a bicycle, can I?” challenged Allan.
“Allan, it’s not only your birthday – it’s Ginger’s too,” interrupted Dawood in a desperate attempt to change the subject.
“And in a couple of days Callum’s going to be a toddler,” added Betty. “He gets a birthday party, too!”
“And me,” said Winona. “It’s my birthday, too!”
The rest of the family looked at Winona as if she were a sideshow circus act. They had adjusted to her stunted growth so well that the thought of her growing up – into a teenager no less – gave them all a big brain fart.
“If Allan gets a car,” continued Winona, “then I get one, too!”
“Look,” answered Dawood. “Neither of you are getting cars. You can get jobs and earn your own set of wheels, if you really need to. But we aren’t buying either of you a car. So stop asking.”
Allan stomped outside to sell muffins to absent neighbours. Winona followed him, teasing him about kissing girls. Dawood sighed after them, and went outside in the other direction to work on the garden. Betty left the room to cuddle Callum one more time, Ginger trailing after her to play with her blocks. Winston was left behind in the high chair, an empty bowl in front of him.
“My birthday too,” mumbled Winston, but no one was there to hear him.
The next day Dawood invited his friends from work over to celebrate his oldest son and his youngest daughter each grow up into their next stages of life. The Wonders’ neighbour, Ariel Wolfe, stopped by when he noticed all the guests show up and joined the party with lots of welcome enthusiasm.
Allan kick-started the party with the first cake. He couldn’t wait to leave his childhood behind. He knew as a teenager he would have more responsibility, but he also knew he would have more say in what went on in his life. Besides, with his mom and dad so busy with four other kids, he was betting he could pretty much get away with doing anything he wanted. He blew out the candles amid tons of applause and swam with delight in the twinkling rainbow lights surrounding his metamorphosis.
“I won’t miss your burnt muffins,” Ariel confided to Allan. “But I’m looking forward to having someone to sneak out of the house with.”
“Do you have a car?” asked Allan.
“I have two!” laughed Ariel, cementing the boys’ friendship for life. Allan looked forward to future to taking out girls on double-dates with Ariel. He knew dating would be easy for him because as it turned out Allan was going to be a great kisser.
Betty gathered up Ginger once the guests had finished with the first round of cake. She had a soft spot for Ginger, even if her second daughter never turned out to be a red-head. The kid was smart. Must have been all the science shows she watched on TV.
Everyone gathered around for the second time at the double-bash and cheered on Ginger’s sparkling growth spurt.
“Tada!” cheered Ginger back to the party crowd. “I know everyone’s thinking they’re stuffed by their first piece of cake, but none of you can resist a second piece I’m sure!”
She was a very perceptive child.
Ginger, Winona, and Allan took their second helpings out to the backyard picnic table to eat. The family gnome stood defiantly in the middle of the table, refusing to move.
“I’ve never gotten used to that thing,” whispered Winona.
“He should be wearing a party hat,” agreed Allan. Ginger giggled.
“I’d like to see him wear one on my birthday,” laughed Winona.
“Don’t hold your breath,” snorted Allan.
They finished eating their cake under the stern gaze of Master Whatshisname, and went inside to say goodbye to their guests and help clean up.
Winona could almost have held her breath, at least until her party, because her turn came just days later, at another double-birthday bash she shared with baby Callum.
Winona’s birthday was a big deal. Neither of her parents took it for granted that she would reach the next stage. It had been so unfortunate that simply because her father had remembered her as an infant on his travels to Egypt, even after she had grown into a toddler, the poor child had years added to her young life. On the good side at least some of that oldest child pressure had been taken off of her, as Allan accelerated by.
Winona joined in with the noisemaking and cheering of her guests – sometimes she didn’t quite believe it herself when her birthday came. She gave herself over to the spinning lifting sensation of entering the next stage of life, smiling as she emerged a beautiful teenager. A teenager who could no longer stand the taste of dead flesh.
Callum’s first cake came right on the heels of Ginger’s new status as a teen. Betty had to put the baby down on the floor at the far corner of the room it was so crowded. In fact, the guests were so involved in cheering and noisemaking that Callum’s terrible twos began behind all of their backs. He did not fail to notice, being a perceptive child like his sister Ginger. It didn’t bother him too much, though. What bothered him more was his inability to get himself outside – he couldn’t wait to be old enough to go camping, or fishing, or playing the park.