from The Year of Blue Water

I asked for Cheerios a week after my fifth birthday, which was also my last birthday party. I don’t remember what we usually had for breakfast, but it was not that. I wanted Cheerios because it was the most delicious snack I had ever had and I never asked for things from the store. They were expensive; they weren’t off-brands.

We didn’t have bags, so I used cellophane and tape to meticulously wrap a handful of Cheerios into a bag-like structure. Then I walked across the hall to June’s apartment. June was one of my first best friends, or at least that was what I told myself. I’m not sure if she remembers who I am but I remember being embarrassed more than once at her house.

I knocked on June’s door and held the bag of Cheerios in front of my face and said thank you for coming to my party. I don’t remember what she said. When I went home, my face was hot with embarrassment. Had she been confused? Did it dawn on me as I saw her face, whatever it had been, that it was just weird to give people cereal as party favors? Cereal that I only knew about because once, I had had it at June’s house.

Ah, so that’s what had happened. I didn’t know how to have a party. I didn’t know what I could have as party favors, and that it was not okay to lick the sugar off the plate when I was finished with my donut. Thinking back, perhaps I don’t have birthday parties because of the way I was made to feel poor, that I had nothing to give.