Rachel’s Party ( a kind of Mother’s Day story)

May 2, 2021

Rachel is having a party. I hear about it first in a school hallway, by the hanging hooks of coats and mittens. Rachel is blonde and athletic and popular, if being popular in the fifth grade is a THING, which it is. I hear them whispering, the girls with the painted nails and Kissing Potion lip gloss in three flavors. I check the mail, hoping. A week later, I’m still checking.

I get my delayed invitation on notebook paper. The front of it has a tracing of an exploding balloon on the front, emblazoned with “It’s Gonna Be a Blowout!”

I am wildly exited. I, relative unpopular person, have been invited to Rachel’s party. Kevin Gasvoda, the boy I have an endless crush on, will be there. He’s got spooky green eyes and vampire incisors and is often sarcastic, which I sort of think translates to mean because he makes girls cry with his words, including me. But he’s beautiful, that boy, with his flashing teeth and wavy hair.

There are about a million ways this party could go bad and a million ways I could blow it with Kevin Gasvoda, but I am up for the challenge.

I march up the stairs and wave my invitation. My mother is plucking her eyebrows with deadly verve, but she knows I’m in the doorway.

“What?” she says.

“I,” I say with enthusiasm and gravitas, “Have been invited. To Rachel’s party.”

“Isn’t that lovely,” my mother says. “Let me see the invitation.”

I hand it to her.


She hands it back to me, flick of the wrist. “You aren’t going.”


I swear I feel my heart hit the floor and go all the way down, down to the creepy basement.

“No! Mom! You can’t say I can’t go. You just can’t, you seriously can’t. Everything–seriously!–depends on this party.”

“You’re not going,” she says, and then turns to look me in the eye. “Period.”


My mother is the biggest, meanest bitch on the planet, I swear. I am livid.

“Why?” I holler. “Why can’t I go?

She looks at me. Dead shark eyes. Waves the paper invitation in front of my face.

“This,” she says, “Is no excuse for an invitation.”

“What do you mean?” I huff. “Everyone got that same invitation!”

“No, they didn’t,” she says, still calmly plucking her eyebrows. “I saw the real invitation on Renate’s (neighbor) refrigerator door, for Karen. It’s a real card invitation, and she got it a week ago, and you only just got yours, now. People must have cancelled, so you got this.”


“God, so what?” I cannot believe that she won’t let me go for the dumbest reason on the planet and Kevin Gasvoda is going to flirt with a girl and it won’t be me and I’m going to miss it and dammit.

She turns and gives me her full attention. She rips the invitation to Rachel’s party right in front of my face and lets the pieces fall to the ground.

“I will tell you what’s what.” Her eyes are blueblue.

“You. YOU. Are not a last-ditch invitation. If you are not first choice, you are no choice at all. You will NOT! By God. Let someone treat you like secondhand goods. And you will not be attending that party.”


And that was the end of it.

I did not go to Rachel’s party.

I did not get to see Kevin Gasvoda kiss a girl named Sherry, which apparently happened.

And for years, I thought my mother was a bitch. A stick-in-the mud, outdated, rule-following, Southern, high-maintenance bitch.


But of course now I know better.

Thank you, Mama, for giving me a lesson that I will never forget.

A lesson about my own worth.

I didn’t think I needed it but damn.

I need it still.


Happy Mother’s Day week.

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