The Princess

The birthday girl is dressed like a princess. She has a diamond tiara, a pink dress with sequins. She has Down syndrome.

I’m in a Mexican restaurant. I’ve been driving. I’m tired. I’m here to enjoy cold beer and something salty.

Earlier, I tried visiting the joint up the road. The place has allegedly good barbecue. I left after three seconds. They had a band that only knew two volume levels: loud, and nuclear holocaust.

So I’m here.

Behind my booth are children. It’s a birthday party. There are at least fifteen. They sit around a long table which is mounding with gifts. They holler and laugh.

A few wear pointy hats. I didn’t know kids wore pointy hats anymore.

My waitress brings my beer, and I overhear all the Top-40 hits of childhood happening behind me.

“Gross, you eat boogers?”

“I know you are, but what am I?”

“My dad could beat up your dad.”

“COOTIES!”

How have we come this far as a civilization, and still not eradicated cooties?

Then, parents hush kids. Children’s voices run quiet. A mother walks to the door and looks through the glass.

“Here she comes,” the woman says to her group. “Get ready.”

There is a pregnant pause. I am holding my beer with both hands, watching the door.

The door opens.

Children scream “Happy Birthday!” loud enough to break stained glass. Then, applause.

The birthday girl is dressed like a princess. She has a diamond tiara, a pink dress with sequins. She has Down syndrome.

Her father helps her to the table, holding her arms. The girl sits and covers her face. She’s blushing.

“YOU GUYS!” she says.

Her smile is bright enough to tear the cotton-picking world in half.

Mexican waiters in colorful sombreros visit her table. They sing. Parents sing. Every able-bodied patron sings. I sing. And for a moment in time we are eight years old again.

Princess Pink opens gifts, using both hands. The wrapping paper doesn’t stand a chance.

“Tell her what gift you gave her,” the princess’ father says to a freckled girl. “She has trouble with her eyes, sweetie.”

“I got you a LEGO set,” Freckles says.

“THANKYOUSOMUCHILOVELEGOS!”

A small boy approaches. He hands the princess a small box. Her majesty opens it in under 2 nanoseconds.

“It’s a mood ring,” the boy says. “It sorta tells how you’re feeling.”

“A RING? ARE YOU ASKING ME TO MARRY YOU!? BECAUSE, YES, I WILL MARRY YOU!”

Another girl hands the princess a package. The princess unwraps it and stares at it.

“It’s a book I made you,” the girl explains. “It’s about all our adventures together.”

“I LOVE BOOKS! THANK YOU!”

I wish you could see the hug they share.

I finish my beer. I order chicken fajitas. They are bland. When I am through eating, the kid-party is still underway.

I pay my tab at the register. The cashier who rings me up doesn’t speak a lick of English. But it doesn’t matter, she’s doing the same thing I’m doing. Smiling. We smile at each other.

And for the life of me, I wish I had some sort of gift to give the little princess.

But all I have are words.

Happy birthday, Princess.

29 comments

  1. Diane Enloe - September 2, 2017 1:02 pm

    How awesome you got to “be a part” of this special birthday! ☺️❤️

    Reply
  2. Sharon - September 2, 2017 1:13 pm

    Thank you

    Reply
  3. Jack Quanstrum - September 2, 2017 1:34 pm

    How special. How perfect. How joyful! What a story! !!!!!!! Makes me want to jump and dance. Thank you Sean for writing it and sharing. What joy had filled my heart this morning. Shalom.

    Reply
  4. Gary - September 2, 2017 1:35 pm

    Made me smile too ,thanks

    Reply
  5. Dianne - September 2, 2017 1:42 pm

    This made my day!! Isn’t it a shame that we, as adults, can’t be as joyful, happy, and accepting of each other as these kids?

    Reply
  6. Sandra Marrar - September 2, 2017 1:44 pm

    Smile 😆…what a precious story!

    Reply
  7. Constance - September 2, 2017 1:47 pm

    I know you are but what am I…

    Reply
  8. Sandy - September 2, 2017 1:50 pm

    Love this so much. It is me doing weepy glees today. I love the comment about eradicating cooties! How do new kids even know this term?
    Love, love the smile breaking apart the whole cotton-picking world.
    And am so very grateful the VERY LOUD band sent you on to this place so we could be in that wonderful moment as well.
    Sandy in the UK

    Reply
  9. Trudy :) - September 2, 2017 1:55 pm

    A gift held in the hands comes and goes, but a gift held in the heart, mind, and ears stays. You gave her a special gift…..one of words which just may be read to her.
    Thank you, Sean, for your gift to all of us.

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - September 2, 2017 4:17 pm

      Amen, Trudy!!

      Reply
  10. Meloney - September 2, 2017 1:55 pm

    How Sweet! Love Your Stories.

    Reply
  11. Cindy Feather - September 2, 2017 3:00 pm

    Love this. Shouldn’t this spur us on to always be so humble, thankful, excited about every gift we receive? And then be compelled to give as well…with abandon, expecting nothing in return but gleeful appreciation? Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Barbara Nelle Ewell - September 2, 2017 3:18 pm

    Pure joy.

    Reply
  13. Elizabeth May - September 2, 2017 3:23 pm

    ONE OF YOUR BEST EVER!

    Reply
  14. Wendy - September 2, 2017 5:50 pm

    Sweeter than Karo syrup!

    Reply
  15. Laura - September 2, 2017 6:02 pm

    I wonder how many people might have left the Mexican restaurant and its noisy, kid-birthday-party atmosphere after about three seconds, and headed on over to the joint up the road, siting down in happy satisfaction as the Nuclear Noise swallowed them whole?

    I wonder how many people who stayed in the Mexican restaurant might have done their darnedest to ignore the birthday hubbub, completely missing what you documented so beautifully?

    I wonder what it is that makes you notice precious moments like the birthdays of princesses, Sean, and capture them for others to read. I don’t know, for sure, but I’m so glad that you do.

    Reply
  16. Tina - September 2, 2017 6:14 pm

    ♥️

    Reply
  17. Melodie - September 2, 2017 6:18 pm

    Princess Pink. How sweet. ♥

    Reply
  18. Susan - September 2, 2017 6:20 pm

    Thank you for a “good news” story! It’s so encouraging to know that love and kindness are still being taught! (My mascara didn’t stand a chance! 🙂 )

    Reply
    • TN Lizzie - September 3, 2017 10:11 pm

      Clear mascara is a blessing!

      Reply
  19. Leia Lona - September 2, 2017 6:35 pm

    Happy tears 💖

    Reply
  20. Laura Young - September 2, 2017 7:18 pm

    Thank you for another sweet tear jerker post. It brings back such memories. My youngest brother was mentally challenged ( is that the politically correct description these days?) But he was the sweetest, most loving child you would ever find. He loved every one and gave the best hugs. When you would say, “I love you, Mark”, he would say I love you more. We would go back and forth saying how much we loved the other, until he would throw his arms wide and say, “But I love YOU this much”. We always let him win. There’s a novelty statuette showing someone in that pose and it says, “I love you this much!” Every time I see one in a store, I think of Mark. He died in a drowning accident in 1974. Even after all this time, I cannot see a special needs child without being reminded.

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - September 4, 2017 3:53 pm

      Laura, what a beautiful memory to have! Even though it was “long” ago, I am sorry for your loss.

      Reply
  21. Chris Kowalski - September 2, 2017 7:25 pm

    We have a Down Syndrome daughter, Maribeth. What a God-given gift we were gifted with.
    Thank you for writing such a beautiful story. I love it! My very good friend sent this to me.

    Reply
  22. Rhonda P - September 3, 2017 1:37 am

    I don’t care what all those “newspeople” say. There IS good left in our world (especially our down south world) and I thank you for reminding us every single day.

    Reply
  23. rita j naftel - September 3, 2017 1:58 am

    Thank you Sean, today marks the death of my sister in law Janet, who we had custody for 21 years after my husband’s parents passed away. She was Down’s with a 4th grade mentality at 66 years old. We always had her here at beach, as her parents did, for her birthdays in July! Gosh, she loved her birthdays! Her smiles penetrated our hearts on HER DAY!!!

    Reply
  24. Pamela McEachern - September 3, 2017 2:32 am

    Everyone has their special day and it is always fun to be a part of their party, even if it is from the sideline. Make A Wish Y’all 🎂

    Reply
  25. Susan in Georgia - September 4, 2017 2:42 am

    I can just see that “Princess Pink” excitedly opening her gifts, exclaiming over each one as if it was the BEST present she’d ever received. What pure joy! What a gift you gave us, Sean, relaying this precious story. Thanks.

    Reply
  26. LeAnne Martin - September 6, 2017 11:46 am

    THANKYOUSOMUCH! ILOVEYOURSTORIES! 🙂

    Reply

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