Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Question (05/24/12)
TITLE: A Matter of Truth
By Dannie Hawley
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“Yes, I’m six today.” Behind my cherubic grin and head of bouncing curls, I hoped the teacher wouldn’t remember that I’d declared the same last Sunday.
“Well, o-o-kay, come on up here and we’ll light the candles.” Out came the delightful little metal birthday cake, holes for the candles covering the top. One-by-one the teacher placed the brightly colored candles in the sunshine-yellow pretend-cake, putting the match to each of six colors. The class sang “Happy Birthday” to me. With one great breath, I blew them out. My little classmates rewarded me with wild cheers. My joy burst from deep inside, emerging through my giggling grin.
“Since you already have one birthday pin on your collar, we’ll keep this one for another person.” Still smiling, I returned to my seat. I loved the gaily decorated little badge, the scripted center vividly proclaiming, Happy Birthday to You. No need for a second pin. I was new to Mrs. Peterson’s class; I looked forward to every Sunday. This church even let kids go to their Sunday School when the parents weren’t attending church.
Again, the following week, Mrs. Peterson asked, “Now that we’ve met our new friends, is there anyone who had a birthday this week?” When my hand shot up, Mrs. Peterson’s brows furrowed slightly. I reckoned she knew that one mistake in the date might be normal, but three Sundays in a row? Suspicious. I had a few butterflies bouncing off the walls of my stomach but figured I should just go for it; maybe she would let me blow out the candles again anyway.
“Uh, you had your birthday last week. Did you get the date wrong?” I nodded my head vigorously, pushing my chair back to head for the teacher’s side. She was a little less enthusiastic than the other two times, but out came the little metal birthday cake; the whole process repeated to my great delight. Again, no birthday pin, but it was the candles not another badge I wanted.
“Hello, Mrs. Curtis. I’m the Sunday School teacher for the five-year-old’s; your daughter’s in my class.”
“Hello! Yes, she loves your class.”
“Uh, well, I was calling to ask you when her birthday actually is.” Mom tensed, considering the question’s wording.
“She’ll be six on April 30.” It was only October; Mrs. Peterson clenched the phone’s receiver, feeling the enlarging knot which had already formed in the pit of her stomach.
“Hmmm, I wonder if you would ask Katie to wait until April to tell us it’s her birthday?”
Mom gasped as growing embarrassment reddened her face.
“Is she telling you it’s her birthday now?”
“Well, we’ve sung to her, and she’s blown out the candles for the last three Sundays.” Mom heard the teacher chuckle but didn’t find the humor.
“I’m so sorry. I’ll tell her not to respond to the birthday question again.”
When my mother called me in from play, and it was nowhere near suppertime, I suspected trouble. Once in the house, I tried to explain to my mother about the whole birthday thing. I mean, what’s the harm in it, really? No one else had a birthday. The kids just love to sing the birthday song and watch someone try to blow out the candles. I only got one pin so I wasn’t really doing anything wrong, was I? After all, it was a very long time until my birthday arrived; maybe there wouldn’t be any pins left. This just might have been my only chance.
My mother’s heart softened, but she was not going to let me lie to my teacher. I learned that day, not hurting anyone and making everyone happy didn’t take the place of the truth.
The following Sunday was a little tense for Mrs. Peterson as she voiced the birthday question, “Anyone have a birthday this week?” I was looking down at the table until she asked a second time, lifting the cake. Glancing up, my eyes sparkled at the sight of it. Mrs. Peterson braced for the raised hand she knew would follow my growing smile. When I opened my mouth to respond, the poor lady stiffened, hands squeezing the little cake.
“Guess no one had a birthday this week, Teacher,” I said, noticing Mrs. Peterson’s hands relax, as a loving, gentle smile brightened her face.
Author’s Note: This is a true story, though all names have been changed to preserve anonymity for the Weekly Writing Challenge.
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