Today I am eleven years old and after what happened at school with that stupid red sweater I just want to be home where Mama made me a cake with candles and presents. On the bus ride home from school, Sylvia Saldivar laughs and tells the entire bus what happened in class with the sweater and how I cried in front of everyone. I look over at Phyllis who is in the seat across from me, she has the ugly red sweater tucked on the side of her as she sat quietly by herself, and it makes me mad all over again. No one cares that the sweater was hers, only that I cried like a three year old in front of the class.
We get to my stop and I hurriedly get off the bus not saying goodbye to anyone, not even the bus driver. No one is waiting for me at the bus stop. Is it because I am eleven now? Do they think I am able to walk home alone? Do they not care anymore? As the bus drives off, I can see Sylvia Saldivar still snickering through the back window. I stick my tongue out at her and walk away. As I am walking home I am wishing I was one hundred and two, not eleven. I wish this day was over. Everyone has forgotten my birthday, even Mama.
On the way home I fall into a puddle and get my shoes, socks, and the bottom of my jeans wet. I begin to cry again, like a three year old. I am eleven years old today and I have cried twice like a baby. I sat there on the curb crying until a neighbor came out to see what was wrong. It was a nice old lady who could barely walk, she used a cane to get around. She came down to the curb and asked me “What’s wrong little lady?” and I couldn’t help but pour out my sorrow to her. In between cries I began to tell her about my day. “Mrs. Price” *sniff* “yelled at me today” *sniff* and made me wear” *sniff* “this ugly, stinky, red sweater” “I tried to tell her it wasn’t mine but Sylvia lied and said it was, so she made me put it on” “I cried in front of the whole class and then Phyllis ended up saying it was hers at the end of class” “On the bus ride home, Sylvia told everyone what happened in class and they laughed at me” “when I got off the bus, no one was waiting for me, I just fell in a puddle, my feet are soaked, and ITS MY BIRTHDAY, I AM ELEVEN YEARS OLD!” The old lady smiled at me and said, “It’s my birthday and I am one hundred years old today and I am alone”.
All day I had been wishing I was one hundred and two and not eleven so that I didn’t feel so small. Here this lady was actually one hundred years old, could barely walk and alone. I wiped my eyes and asked her why she was alone, she replied “Once you get my age, you realize birthdays aren’t as important as we make them seem”.
Today, on my eleventh birthday, this old lady, on her one hundredth birthday made me realize that I was not having such a bad day after all. She eventually tells me her name, Mrs. White. Then she offers me, some dry socks, and some cake that she baked for herself on her birthday. I gladly accept. She limps on her cane back into the house to retrieve the items as I wait outside still sitting on the curb. She comes back with a dry pair of socks, cake in a small container and a small gift bag. She hands me the items and asks if I am okay to walk home. I tell her yes, change my socks, and reach up to give her a hug. We tell each other Happy Birthday and part ways.
On my walk home, I look into the gift bag, and it is a nicely knitted sweater. Not old and raggedy like the one Mrs. Price and Sylvia thought was mine. It is beautiful pink and purple sweater that I loved. I can’t wait to get home to show Mama. I get to my house and notice that Papa’s car is in the driveway. But no one came to get from the bus stop, I think. Why is Papa home so early? Why didn’t he just pick me up from the bus stop? Why didn’t Mama? I began to get upset again. Now I’m rushing to get in the house. When I open the door; Mama, Papa, my primos and primas, my Tios, and Tias are all there with gifts and cake and yelling “Surprise! Happy Birthday!” I am shocked and happy and I begin to cry, this time out of pure happiness because I am eleven years old today and not one hundred and two and no one forgot about my birthday.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman hollering Creek and other stories. New York, Vintage, 1991