But as fate would have it, I was grounded, and as only my ornery
nature would allow, I hadn’t reminded anyone in my large family why today was different.
“Bernie! Are you awake?” My mom hollered up the stairs.
“I’m up!” I yelled back.
I suddenly felt tired, extinguished, and depressed. Her tone was one of
minor annoyance so I was sure they had forgotten my birthday. When you have
six others to keep track of it’s no wonder, and being the middle child I’d
learned not to make a fuss over things like spilt milk and missed
birthdays. That didn’t mean I wasn’t planning a big, fat, I told you so, the following day. A ‘happy birthday to me’ pity party that would get me out of grounding.
“BERNIE! you have ten minutes until the bus gets here, if you miss it we
will tack on another week of grounding!”
I rushed around my bedroom, combed my fingers through a lion’s mane of
unruly curls and threw on the one pair of jeans that weren’t
hand-me-downs. If I was going to be forgotten on my birthday I would do it
They may have looked like ordinary Ginko jeans on the outside, but these
pants were special to me. I had gotten them at the beginning of the school
year as a ‘back to the grind’ send off. After begging my mother for an
hour, she had finally conceded, and sacrificed a little extra to make me
feel more confident.
They had a small figured girl at the right hand pocket and a flare down the
leg. They had a way of making me walk with a skip in my normally shy step.
Like the girl you see in the movies, going from frumpy to sparkle queen in
the change of a wardrobe.
Just as I was making my way down our narrow staircase, two steps at a time,
I saw the yellow short bus pulling into our driveway.
“Remember, straight to school and straight home, you have piano lessons
tomorrow afternoon so you need to make sure you practice and finish your
homework before bed tonight.”
My mother was busy washing the breakfast dishes. I paused for a moment, hoping she would add something else to the end, but
the glimmer died when she looked up expectantly.
I could feel my shoulders slump as I trudged through the door to join my
younger siblings on the bus. I am sure she said she loved me and told me
to have a good day, but when you are feeling sorry for yourself, those
things tend to go missed.
The rest of the day was business as usual. I’d made it a point not to
disclose or remind my peers that today was my birthday and according to
plan, I checked off every name on my friends list by the end of the day.
One by one, I’d marked them down as inconsiderate because not a single
person, offered me a happy birthday. Instead we talked about their boy
problems, girl problems, stupid school stuff we couldn’t stand, and shared
homework answers. Another typical day.
As the time went on, I began looking hopefully toward the clock. Surely
when I got home they would have realized their mistake and righted the
wrongs. I would walk into the house to be met by the smell of a
baking cake and hugs and apologetic kisses.
I suddenly didn’t care about the pity party, I needed to be comforted and
reminded that I was important.
Final period came around and I couldn’t pay attention.
“For tomorrow, make sure you read the next chapter. We will have a quiz at
the end of the week so make sure to pay special attention to the items in
It was always the bold print items that got the attention.
I decided that maybe that was it, I was just a normal, lowercase, Arial
font… No bold, no underline. Just plain. I could feel myself
forcing back tears and swallowing my hurt feelings.
I was so close to the end of the day I couldn’t start blubbering now.
Thankfully, no one seemed to notice. Once the bell rang we formed a messy
gaggle and streamed into the hallway. We packed our backpacks, said our
goodbyes and see-ya-laters.
“Don’t get yourself grounded for any longer. We have a football game to go
to this weekend and I can’t go without you!” My best friend had called over
I’m sure I murmured something under my breath, but outwardly I smiled and
told my best friend something along the lines of “Sounds great, I’ll do my best, but… you know how it is… So no promises.”
My brothers and I, were the last ones off the bus, as usual so I had time
to sit and gather my sad, forgotten thoughts. I did what I normally would
when I felt completely forgettable: I put my thoughts into writing, because
even if no one else ever saw them, I would know they existed. I wouldn’t forget them.
“I need something, anything… Please show me that I mean something, to
ANYONE. Am I worth anything? How could people forget my birthday unless I
didn’t deserve to be remembered.”
A tear drop hit the paper, leaving a blur in my ink.
“I wish I knew, please tell me why I should even bother. Do I even matter?
What’s the point in trying if not even family cares if I am around
one way or another.”
Three large drops hit the paper.
And then it happened… The cherry on top…
“Are you CRYING?!”screeched a fifth grader sitting in the bus bench across the aisle. I
“Cry baby, cry baby, you’re a big cry baby.”
I tried to think of something to say back but I had nothing. I found myself writing that over and over.
What is the point, no one cares, I’m a worthless cry baby.
I wrote it in box form, I wrote it in bubble form, I wrote it in robot
text. Finally the bus stopped in front of our large acreage.
I walked silently down the empty bus aisle behind my jubilant younger
brothers who couldn’t wait to be off the bus and on to freedom, fun, and
games. I caught the bus driver’s eyes from his large rearview mirror. He
was smiling kindly back at me, which made my watery, slightly-bloodshot
eyes come dangerously close to more tears.
“Hey kiddo, are you alright?”
Jerry had driven bus for us since we started at the new school a year
before. I smiled insincerely back.
“I’m fine, Thank you for asking Jerry.”
My voice shook at his kindness. He smiled warmly as I began my dismount.
I turned back, my face full of questions.
“It’ll get better kiddo, but it’s okay to be sad. That doesn’t make you a
I could have hugged him, but I was afraid of what my eyes might do so I
smiled gratefully and turned quickly away. After a moment I heard the bus
hiss and depart.
No one remembered my birthday, and no one said a word the rest of the
It felt like a ton of bricks was slowly being lowered on my chest. I had to
swallow every bite of dinner carefully, afraid it might get lodged in the
growing lump forming in my throat.
It wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t here, no one really cares. If it weren’t
for my getting into trouble, no one would even notice if I was gone.
All I ever seemed to do was get into trouble.
The ugly thoughts circulated hurtfully through my mind, over and over
“May I be excused? I have a lot of homework to do.”
“Go ahead sweetie.” My mom answered back absently.
I lifted my heavy backpack and together we ascended the stairs to the
sanctuary of my room. The moment my door closed I burst into the fit of
tears I’d dammed up all day long. Wrenching them into my pillow as I
realized time and again, just how forgettable I must be. After ten minutes
of that, I looked up, into my mirrored closet doors. Still
snorting and snuffling through my sadness while gasping for air.
I looked at myself angrily;
Why are you even here? You are a burden, you cause trouble and nothing
else. No one cares about you unless you are doing something for them,
but mostly all you do is cause problems. Why can’t you be more like
The litany of self loathing sounded, repeating the thoughts I’d felt a
I placed a cold hand over my red hot forehead and fell back onto my bed,
suddenly too warm to be comfortable. I stood up and started unbuttoning my
Why am I here? Please God, if you exist, tell me why I should even
Then something happened.
I had worn my favorite jeans a thousand times, I knew every inch of them by
heart, or so I thought. I had pulled the lip of them down, ready
to shift into jammies when I suddenly froze. There was red stitched
lettering on the inside rim that I had never seen. Never noticed.
I looked down slowly, and staring back at me in bold, red lettering was the
phrase “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL”
I found my favorite bible passage that night, and I learned a powerful
lesson that day, many of them in fact, but the two that stuck were these;
“When all else fails to give you what you need, turn to God. Ask him the important questions and he will find a way to answer you. Even through a simple pair of jeans.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is
forgotten by God. 7Indeed, the very hairs of your
head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many
sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)”