“Sweet Adeline, my Adeline. At night dear heart for you I pine. In all my dreams, your fair face beams. You’re the flower of my heart sweet Adeline. ” Father sang the old barbershop standard to me every time he tucked me in. His rich tenor voice tickled my ears. I smiled and listened, imagining that the song had been written just for me. “You’re the flower of my heart sweet Adeline.”
“I love you, Daddy!” I was already tucked snuggly beneath my pink quilt, wearing my frilliest white nightgown, and had a babydoll tucked in beside me. I was clinging to my childhood as hard I could.
“I love you, Addy. Double digits tomorrow!” Father smoothed my hair into place. I was turning ten and he had planned what was expected to be the biggest birthday party of the century for me. Father knew no limits when it came to pleasing his little girls.
“I’m halfway to twenty.” Mischief danced behind my green eyes.
“Don’t remind me!” Father tickled my feet and switched off the light. “Get to sleep, big day tomorrow!”
I was too excited to sleep. I wondered what the party of the century would include… Pony rides? A circus in our yard? A pool full of candy? I knew it had to be something amazing!
Still awake after what seemed like hours, I strained my ears. I could hear arguing, but couldn’t tell what was wrong. I cracked the door, my parents were standing at the bottom of the staircase in a heated discussion. The sliver of light from the hall stretched across my room and I felt a little guilty for spying on them. “I am not going overboard!” Father insisted.
“You booked an entire theatre for a child who plays alone and has never been to a sleepover in her life! Who do you think will come and fill up those fifty dollar a piece seats?” Mama sounded exasperated and I felt a mix of emotions. Part of me was thrilled to know that my father had gone to such lengths for me, but the other part of me was ashamed that I didn’t have friends. My cousin Victoria had been the closest thing I had ever had to a friend, and she was dead. My sister and I couldn't be friends because I was always too busy trying to one up her.
“You think I’m stupid? I know she doesn’t have friends like normal children, but my Addy is not normal-- she is exceptional! One million dollars a seat is well worth it even if just one seat is filled. She and Anna are all I have left.” I could hear the passion and pain in his voice. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought he was crying, but I knew good and well that men didn’t cry. All he had left? He had Mama. I couldn’t wrap my nine year, three hundred and sixty four day old brain around it. I tip-toed back to my bed and cried. I was perfectly happy playing alone at school, staying at home with Mama while Anna was away at friends’ houses, and telling my deepest darkest secrets to Maria, the housekeeper. I didn’t really need friends… But I suddenly wished I had a theatre full of them.
My birthday party the next day truly was the party of a century. I opened more presents than I could count, felt more loved than I ever imagined possible, and was surrounded by my family. Anna and I got dressed in our finest Sunday dresses for the theater. I had no idea what we were seeing, but had a feeling that my father either rented four hundred kids to fill the seats or called and told them to open the ticket booth and sell all but four tickets.
I felt like a princess. Anna and I couldn’t stop giggling as we waited for Mama to get ready. Finally she emerged from her bedroom looking more elegant than anyone I had ever seen. Her champagne dress glistened by lamplight, her high heels clicked against the hardwood floor, and her hair looked like rich brown silk billowing down her bare shoulders. Father stood in awe of her and beamed. I saw the love in his eyes. Anna and I smiled and could only hope to look half as beautiful someday.
“Breath taking,” he whispered.
“You don’t look so bad yourself.” She gave him the once over, he did look handsome in his tux. “Shall we?” They held hands and we followed them out to the car.
As we pulled up to the Theatre I squealed in delight! “Happy Birthday, Addy!” was spelled out for every one who passed by to see. We headed inside and took our seats right in the middle of the sea of empty red chairs.
“Just for you.” My father smiled and took my hand in his. I knew that he had dropped a small fortune on this birthday surprise, and I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he loved me. We watched our private showing of My Fair Lady, which just happened to be one of my favorite old movies too. Sandwiched between my parents, I enjoyed every last drop of the birthday party of the century… I was halfway to twenty, and things were getting better and better by the second!