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“Do you think we should include the girls?” Cooper asked on our walk home from his elementary school.

“Absolutely.” My response was automatic. When my 9-year-old didn’t reply, I glanced at him. “What do you think? It’s your birthday party.”

My fourth-grader paused, considering his options. “Well, last year we didn’t have a very big turnout.”

My heart sank to my stomach. “I know, and that’s on me. I didn’t do a very good job organizing your party.”

I had been recovering from a lumpectomy last October when my son’s ninth birthday party rolled around on the calendar.

“That’s OK,” he said. “We only invited the boys, and there were only five boys in my class.”

I softly smiled. “Thanks, Coop. But I’m on it this year. I already made the invitation and secured the bowling alley on a Saturday, not Sunday like last year.”

“You have?” His face lit up. “You already have the bowling alley?”

I nodded with a grin. “Worked on it today and left a deposit before I walked to come get you.”

He reached for my hand, which is something my soon-to-be 10-year-old never does in public, and held it. “Thanks, Mom.”

I could have cried. When only one classmate showed up to his birthday party, I was two days post-op. I couldn’t tie their rented shoes or lift the knife to cut his cake. Yet no one would have known by Cooper’s attitude. He was a trooper, laughing and enjoying his day with his friend and older brothers.

“I think I’d like to invite the whole class – even the girls,” Cooper said.

I chuckled. “I think that’s a great idea.” This year Cooper is in a larger class with an even mix of boys and girls.

We went home and printed 26 invitations to “Strike Up Some Fun” at his 10th birthday party. Cooper wanted to give bowling one more try. The next day, he handed out the invitations.

The following week on our walk, we talked about the party.

“Only one person has responded,” he said. “And it’s a girl.”

I hid my smile. “But she’s a really sweet girl.”

Coop nodded. “I know, but I want the boys to come, too.”

“Sometimes kids forget to empty their backpacks. Or the invitation gets lost. And sometimes parents just need a reminder. We could create a reminder invite. You know, just to remind everyone it’s this weekend.”

“Really?” Cooper’s face lit up. “That’s a great idea.”

It seemed like a great idea. But who knew drafting a birthday party reminder could be so trying? I wanted the invitation to convey the message without sounding pushy. I quickly discovered that it’s really difficult to find that balance.

Lucky for me, my tech-savvy kid directed me to the internet. The posts that surfaced, though, were not quite what we imagined.

“Here’s one.” I clicked on the link that led me to a picture of Humpty Dumpty. I read the message aloud.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall – because you haven’t RSVP’d yet.”

We both burst out laughing. “Uh, I don’t think that’s what we’re looking for,” I said.

Cooper pointed to an image of Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat.” I clicked the cat, and again a rhyme surfaced.

“Roman’s birthday is near

Only four days to go

If you haven’t RSVP dear

Kindly do so.”

I stared at my computer. “Well, it’s a quatrain, but oh, dear, that’s bad.”

Cooper giggled.

I scrolled through the posts and images. “Maybe this one will be better.” It had a picture of a birthday cake.

“Yeah, click that one.” My son’s enthusiasm was contagious. The invitation popped up and we both read it.

“The weather outside may be frightful,

But the inside pool will be delightful.

But you’ll never know,

If you don’t RSVP below.”

“That’s kind of mean,” Cooper said and with a chuckle.

“That’s awful,” I giggled. “But there seems to be a trend with rhyming these things.” I opened a Word file and raised an eyebrow at my son. “How about...”

I began typing the first rhyme that popped in my head.

“There once was a lady from Cheyenne,

Who sent party invitations for her little man.

She heard no replies,

And said with a sigh,

I guess they don’t give a damn.”

Cooper laughed so hard he could barely breathe. I smiled so wide it hurt.

When my little man came up for air, he said, “We really shouldn’t curse.”

I shook my head. “Oh, buddy, that was a joke. I wouldn’t send that out.”

We finally settled on one that didn’t rhyme but wasn’t rude. Even Miss Manners would approve.

“Just a quick reminder that Cooper’s birthday party is this week! We’re looking forward to seeing you at the bowling alley on Saturday! If you have questions, please call Cooper’s mom.”

We printed a fresh batch of reminder invites and stuffed them in Coop’s backpack to deliver. I figure if this writing gig doesn’t pan out, I could always pen some prose for Hallmark. And I’ve already drafted my cover letter.

“There once was a lady from the Cowboy State,

A starving writer, who hardly ever ate.

She stopped writing columns

For something more solemn

And really thinks greeting card writing is great.”

Mary Billiter can be reached at marybilliter@ymail.com

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