Aaron’s mother came through the door, a bag of groceries in her arms.
“Mom!” Aaron jumped up and gave her a hug. He took the groceries and set them on the kitchen counter.
Aaron was home alone in their apartment after school while his mother worked. It was only for a couple of hours, but it was the loneliest time of the day.
“Hey, Buddy,” she said, “got your homework done?”
“Yep. What’s for supper?” he asked as he showed her his notebook.
Aaron’s mother sighed. “Oh, I don’t know. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just sit down for a few minutes before I get us something to eat.” She sat down in her “resting chair.”
Aaron’s mom was usually tired after work. His dad didn’t live there anymore, so it was just the two of them.
Aaron hid a small disappointed sigh. His mom put her head back on the chair and closed her eyes.
A few minutes later the phone rang. “Hello,” Aaron answered politely, “Jackson residence.”
“Hi, sugar. How’s my boy?” a familiar voice asked.
“Grandma! I’m just fine. What’s up?”
“I just called to wish your mom a happy birthday. Is she home yet?”
“Yes,” he answered, “but she’s asleep. I didn’t know it was Mom’s birthday. I’ll go wake her up.”
“No, child,” his grandma said quickly. “Don’t bother her while she’s resting. I’ll call back later tonight. Take care, sweetie!” And she hung up.
Aaron put the receiver back down. Hmmm, Mom’s birthday. …
He remembered his own birthday a few months ago. The cake and ice cream were great, and so was his present—a blue remote-control race car! Oh, how he had wanted one! His mom had said that it was too expensive, but somehow she’d managed to get one for him.
“I’ll have a party for Mom!” he said out loud. Oops! I’ll have to be quiet—and hurry! But what can I do? I don’t have any money, and I can’t go out alone, anyway. I’ll have to make something, instead—I know!
He went to his mother’s jewelry box. She had broken her favorite necklace a few weeks ago. It was made of beads from Africa and had belonged to Aaron’s great-grandmother. Aaron had helped his mom pick up all the beads when it broke, but she hadn’t had time to string them back together. He found some new string and carefully threaded it through the beads one by one. He couldn’t remember the exact pattern but came as close to it as he could.
The new string was a little shorter than the first one, but it would still fit over her head. There were a few beads left over, so he put them back into the jewelry box.
He tiptoed past his mother into the kitchen, wrapped the necklace in a blue paper napkin from the table, and found a piece of yarn for a bow. It made a nice present. But it looked kind of small all alone on the table.
I need a cake, he thought. He looked through the kitchen cabinets and spotted the peanut butter.
I know—I’ll make a peanut-butter-and-jelly cake! I hope we have some jelly.
Aaron got out bread, peanut butter, and jelly, put a slice of bread on a plate, and covered the top with peanut butter, then jelly. He put a second slice of bread on top of that and spread it with peanut butter and jelly too. A third piece of bread went on top of that. For the frosting he just spread a third layer of peanut butter. Carefully he wrote Happy Birthday in the peanut butter with a knife. It looked a little plain, so he put dots of jelly here and there for decoration. Perfect! He found two of the candles from his own birthday cake and put them on top. He wasn’t allowed to use matches, so his mom would have to light them.
Aaron heard her stirring in the next room. Please don’t wake up now—I’m not ready! he thought.
Finding a large yellow envelope in the trash, he cut off all the writing until he had a small piece of plain yellow paper. With a colored pen he wrote, “You’re the best, Mom!” After folding the card and putting it next to the present and cake, he hurried to put away the groceries that she had brought home. Then he even swept the kitchen floor.
Everything looked great! Aaron felt good about his hard work. Now he could hardly wait for his mother to wake up. He crouched down behind the table and fidgeted.
Finally he heard Mom get up and say, “Goodness! I’d better get supper on. I wonder what Aaron’s doing.” She walked into the kitchen. “Well, what’s all this?”
Aaron jumped up. “Surprise! Happy Birthday, Mom!” he shouted.
“Why, Aaron, did you do all this?”
“I sure did!”
Aaron couldn’t remember seeing his mom smile so much. She grabbed him up for a big hug. “This is the best kind of birthday!” she exclaimed happily. They laughed and danced around the kitchen.
“Here,” Aaron said. “Open your present!”
She opened the blue paper napkin. “Oh, honey, you fixed Grandmother’s necklace for me. It’s so beautiful. Strong too. And a card!”
She read the card. She looked at everything for a long time. “Buddy,” she said with tears in her eyes, “you’ve made today the most special day for me.” She held Aaron close. “I love you so much.”
“Aw, Mom,” he said, pulling away. But he did feel pretty special.
After a supper of soup and salad, they cut into Aaron’s cake and ate every bite!
Later, as Aaron’s mom was tucking him into bed, the phone rang. “That’s Grandma,” he said. “She called while you were asleep.”
Mom kissed him on the forehead. “Thanks for a wonderful birthday, Aaron. Sweet dreams.”
Aaron listened as Mom told Grandma all about the special birthday. She laughed as she talked, and sounded happy.
Aaron felt happy too. Yes, this was the best kind of birthday.