When I was about nine years old, I went to a classmate’s birthday party. For confidentiality, I will refer to that classmate as Molly.
I remember it was a cold, grey early December day, probably around three in the afternoon when my mother dropped me off at Molly’s house.
Molly greeted me at the door and I said, “Happy Birthday!” I handed her my present: Holly Hobbie Colorforms, stickers, and a new sticker album gift-wrapped in brightly colored paper and a red bow.
I looked around the living room and there wasn’t one party decoration, no balloons or streamers hanging anywhere. The house was dingy and dark and it smelled like stale cigarette smoke. Her father didn’t say hello. Instead, he stared at Howard Cosell on the console television set complete with a big rabbit ear antenna.
“The backyard, Molly! You and your friend need to play outside!” her mother yelled from a room somewhere in the back of the house before I could even take off my coat.
Molly looked at me with unhappy eyes. “I have to listen to Mommy,” she said as she took my hand and led me through the house and out a back door that had a ripped screen and a broken window. The back yard contained a dilapidated swing set, barren of any swings or slides, and was littered with empty bottles and rusted cans.
Molly and I played outside for the entire two hours of her party.
No other classmates or friends came.
It was just me, and I was frozen to the bone under my coat and my mittens.
All Molly had on was a striped long-sleeve t-shirt, stained jeans, and torn navy-blue sneakers. She told me she didn’t need a coat and wasn’t cold despite her chattering teeth.
There were no snacks.
There was no soda or ice cream.
There were no favors or goody bags.
There was no cake for Molly, and no singing of “Happy Birthday.”
It was dark when my father picked me up. Christmas lights twinkled from all the houses on Molly’s street except hers.
When I got home, I couldn’t stop shivering. My mother was livid when she found out I was outside for two hours in the cold and in the dark.
“What kind of people have a party outside in the freezing cold like that!” she yelled. She called Molly’s house to complain, but nobody answered the phone.
I understood a little more about why Molly’s clothes were always dirty and why she never brought a lunch to school. For the rest of the year, I was extra nice to her. She was absent a lot, but on days when she was in school, I’d share my lunch with her and reach out to her because Molly was my friend.
I wasn’t allowed to go to her house ever again to play with her, and her parents would not drive her anywhere so she never came over to my house to play, either. The following year, I didn’t see much of her because we had different teachers, and we consequently lost touch.
That party was 40 years ago.
I’ve been haunted by it ever since.
It makes me incredibly sad that nobody else came to Molly’s party.
It makes me even sadder to think about how hard life must have been for her.
Molly ended up dropping out when we were in high school, and I have no idea where she is now.
However, Molly never left my heart.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for Molly to be loved and to have enjoyed a real birthday party like she so deserved.
I really hope God answered my prayers.
Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.
“Molly In My Heart” was posted on jillocone.com on January 12, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.