I sat outside on the porch, soaking in the early spring sunshine.
Today felt special — I just didn’t know why. So I exposed myself to something highly dangerous: thought. Yes, I actually thought about why today seemed special.
After a few minutes of not very productive thinking, Tracy joined my outside. She put something on my head.
I rolled my eyes upward to try to see what she had placed on my head. I caught a glimpse of yellow, purple, and white.
“A flower crown?”
I reached up on touched the crocuses circling my head.
“Yeah,” Tracy replied. “They’re the first flowers of spring.”
“Why’d you give it me?” I asked. “And why did you even make it in the first place?”
“It’s . . . Flower Crown Day!” Tracy said.
“Really?” How could I not know about a holiday as important as Flower Crown Day?
“No, Flower Crown Day isn’t a thing. But it should be.” My older sister smiled down at me.
The rest of my noisy family came romping out onto the porch. “Happy birthday, Saige!” they shouted.
Tracy grinned at me. “That’s really what the crown was for. Happy b-day, Saigie.”
I gasped in delight and put my hands on my cheeks. “It’s my birthday! It’s my birthday! How could I have forgotten?”
I actually had a pretty good guess why. I had really missed Mary-Jane Valdez since she left two weeks ago — the family hadn’t really felt complete without her.
I wondered if I’d ever see her again. She had promised to visit us, but she was a celebrity; when would she find time to drop in?
I followed Tracy and the others to a stack of flat rocks that would act as my Throne of Awesomeness when I received my presents. Feeling like a Hawaiian princess with my flower crown and tropical outfit, I sat on the rocks and smiled, trying to push all thoughts of MJ out of my mind. Even though she couldn’t be here to celebrate with us, this birthday would still be fun.
As soon as all the presents were on the ground in front of me, I grabbed the closest one and ripped off the paper.
After all the gifts were unwrapped, I oohed and aahed at each one. There was a set of markers, eight clips for my hair, a watercolor set and a paper doll with stick-on clothes.
Then came my favorite time of the party! While my sisters cleaned up, Savannah, Isabelle and I went crazy from all the sugar that had been in my chocolate cake. Ana sang “Girl on Fire,” Izzy danced hip-hop, and I ran in circles around them and took a bunch of selfies.
While we were flopped down in the grass, laughing and breathing hard, I spotted someone walking down the road. Though I couldn’t see her very well, she looked kind of familiar.
When she turned into our driveway, I finally realized who she was: MJ!
Isabelle had noticed her, too, and she was already running to meet her. Izzy threw her arms around MJ and exclaimed, “You came back! You really did!”
MJ squeezed her and replied, “I said I would.”
Tracy came sprinting down the path like a cheetah with its tail on fire. She sprang into the air and tackled her friend.
Jumping up and down and squealing, MJ said, “You’re wearing pink, Sis! PINK!”
“Ugh, I know! It’s for a series Mom is filming — I hate that I’m always a girly-girl when there’s some tomboy that needs playing!
Savannah and I greeted MJ next.
“You’re back so soon!” I cried in shocked delight.
“I know — I could hardly bear to be away from you guys! I love you all so much!”
Hearing MJ say that really warmed my heart. She, a globe trotting thirteen year old celebrity know world-wide, wanted to be with a bunch of girls from a small town.
“Why are you back already?” Savannah asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be on a world tour?”
“I heard it was someone’s birthday!” MJ sang. She handed me a bundle.
Seeing the puzzled look on my face as I stared at the odd gift, MJ laughed. “It’s a scarf with a hair-band around it,” she explained.
“Oh, well, thank you!”
“There’s something I need to tell you,” MJ began. “I . . . canceled my world tour.”
“Why?!” we gasped in unison.
MJ picked a snow drop and studied it as she talked. “I decided to cancel after my show in New York. You guys mean so much to me — I’d rather be near you than singing for strangers. I’m staying with you; you’re my family now.”
It was good — no, great news that MJ would be staying with us. I wanted to scream and run around and sing as loud as I could. I’d wished that MJ could live with us, and now she would be!
But at the same time, I was sad for MJ. She loved singing, and she was amazing at it — if she stayed with us, what would that do to her future?
Savannah must have been thinking the same thing, because she asked, “What about your career?”
MJ smiled sadly. “Maybe I’m ready to give it up, maybe I’m not. But the whole time I was in New York, all I could think of was you guys. Singing used to be the only thing that made me happy after my parents died, but . . . Well, what I’m trying to say is that all of you make me so happy I want to burst. I’m willing to give up my life as a celebrity if it means I can be with you.
MJ spread her arms wide to take us all in. “I’m yours; you’re mine.”
We all hugged MJ at once. Her speech had brought tears to my eyes. We meant more to her than singing, which had been at the base of her life for years. And she was willing to leave everything she knew and come live with us.
Having MJ come home really was the only thing I wanted for my birthday. She taught me that birthdays aren’t all about presents and being at the center of attention — they’re about being with the people you love the most.
Which is my family; and now MJ is a part of it, too.