A Cupcake and Bouncy Ball

In kindergarten and first grade, I attended a small, rural school, and one of my only memories from that time was birthdays.

In kindergarten, you knew when it was a special day when the teacher retrieved a special jar from the high cabinet and opened the lid.  The euphoric smell of freshly manufactured rubber filled their air as she dipped her hand into the jar and produced a single, fresh bouncy ball and bestowed it on the lucky birthday child.


I waited with great anticipation for my bouncy ball.  When was my birthday going to be?  What color ball would I choose?  Would everyone sing extra-loudly for me?

Then we had the unit on learning your birthday and I was crushed to find out that I wouldn’t be in school for my birthday!  I had a summer birthday!


The world came crashing down.  What was I going to do?  Were my chances of cradling that sweet rubber  ball on my birthday gone?  Just because I had a summer birthday?

For the first time I felt the stinging pangs of birthday discrimination.

Then, the last week of school, a miracle!  Our teacher gave out bouncy balls to all the summer birthday kids!  I still felt shortchanged, though, because I had to share my special moment with 3 other kids who also had summer birthdays.  Arg!

In first grade, the story was different.  Now that I was attending school for the full day, I was introduced to the phenomenon of school lunch, and quickly found out that birthdays for first graders were infinitely more cool than in Kindergarten — because you got a cupcake!

chocolate cupcake

(This gives you an idea how small the school was, that the lunch ladies knew everyone’s birthday and make cupcakes for each birthday in the whole school.)

I was first introduced to this cupcake phenomenon (and the accompanying covetous feelings) when my brother (just a grade older than me) had his November birthday.  There it sat, the beautiful, fresh, handmade chocolate cupcake with a single candle standing erect in the middle.  I’m not sure if we sang, but for this story’s sake – we sang.  Ben blew out the candle.  The children cheered, and life was grand.

I wanted a cupcake really badly.

Then I realized, my June birthday might preclude me from having a birthday cupcake!!


I wondered outloud, “would they give cupcakes to all the summer birthdays during the last week of school?”  “Would I get my chocolatey moment in the spotlight?”  “Would I be the envy of children around the lunchroom?”  “How could they in good conscience give chocolate cupcakes to only some of the children?”


The answer came in a resounding – NO!  No cupcakes for summer birthday kids.

I was devastated.  (Kid devastated – lasts for about five minutes, until you blog about it 23 years later.)

So this post is dedicated to all those kids with summer birthdays out there.  May your birthday never be forgotten by your singing school peers, bouncy ball giving teachers, and cupcake making lunch ladies!

16 thoughts on “A Cupcake and Bouncy Ball”

  1. Yes!- great post. I wish I could describe memories like that- no wait- I wish I had memories like that- no wait again- I wish I could remember anything from my childhood 🙂

  2. Ummm…what about those of us with Christmastime birthdays? More specifically after Christmas and before New Years? The time when everyone is relaxing and glad that all of the hub-bub is over until New Years. The time when everyone thinks, “Yay! I’m done! No more presents or celebrating!” Or everyone is out of town. Or everyone is coming back in to town and needs you to pick them up from the airport. You mean like that? Cause yeah, I know what that’s like. 🙂

  3. I share your pain with summer birthdays. In fact, I never even had a birthday party until after I graduated high school. I am glad I am not the only one that felt a little left out.

  4. I feel your pain, but maybe not to that degree–I always had to take finals on my birthday. 🙁
    P.S. You’ll have to let us know how many bouncy balls you get for this year’s birthday.

  5. I’m with you, my birthday’s on the 18th, so I never had cupcakes or bouncy balls or anything nice EVER. Plus, my last name started with a ‘V’, so I sat in the BACK of the classroom on my own…until 7th grade when I sat next to Victor Vanderhoff, and I really REALLY wanted him to be my boyfriend, but we were only ever friends, so I kept up my unrequited love for my best friend’s brother who didn’t even know I existed…oh, the torment!

    Sorry…happy bithday!!

  6. This has got to be 90% made up, I went to the same school through 6th grade and I have no memories of cupcakes at all. And I was older to remember.

    But as a note of solidarity. I too am summer bday.

  7. I agree with TLS. I went to that school until 5th grade and have no memories of cupcakes either. The chicken soup, though… Wow. I still think about it sometimes almost 25 years later. No one who didn’t experience it can understand what it’s like to have homemade school lunch.

  8. Maybe you can have all your kids during the school year months, so they don’t have to go through your childhood traumas. It’s all about making life better for your posterity… of course, now you will be sympathetic to their feelings if you did have a summer month baby.

  9. THE CHICKEN SOUP DEEDS. AHHH the chicken soup I have spoken of it often. And that homemade fudge. Remember that? I once dreamt that I went back there and got the recipe. I woke up happier that I have in a long time until 10 minutes later I realized that it was a dream. I would give my left arm for that cafeteria’s cookbook. It was the best ever.

    I remember reading in books about bad school lunch and I was so confused about that. Then I got an assignment last year to help with a lunch birthday thing at my kids school. And I saw the horror that was school lunch. It was/is disgusting.

    Those ladies that made lunch at our elementary school were wonderful. I am smiling at the tacos and the buttery beans they gave us. Sigh.

  10. mmmm buttery beans… The funny thing about this post is that Sam probably got more special treatment than most of the kids in school EVERY day. Just because he was a cute, sweet, little redhead with smurf glasses. He probably got a cupcake every Friday just for being himself. Sorry, no pity from me.

  11. Fudge, butter beans, tacos… I’m now hungry for elementary school lunch. What about the pinwheels? I work with someone else who went to that same school and we talk about those all the time! There’s got to be a way to get those recipes.

  12. Doesn’t your coworkers family still live down there? Ask him to get us a hook up. Are those wonderful lunch ladies still alive? There must be a way. I will write a letter!

  13. I have to come to WE’s defense… I was talking to the person I work with (I’ll call him JMo) and he said they definitely gave out cupcakes for birthdays. He stayed there (unlike some of us who up and left) and laughed at me b/c I couldn’t remember. Oh, and he thinks the recipes will be in the 2nd ward cookbook – I’m going to have him steal his mom’s!

  14. SWEET, SWEET VINDICATION!!! Maybe they just gave the cupcakes to the boys… cause boys are better anyways… and they have bigger brains.

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