Yael’s Birthday Wish
It wasn’t a new game or a trip to the zoo. Yael’s birthday wish was much simpler than that but oh so hard to achieve. Yael just wanted to be normal like every other seven-year-old. She wanted to go to school and learn how to read. She wanted to sit in a class with other girls, not spend her time in the oncology pediatric ward where scary things happen. Yael had been in first grade-for two days-when she had been diagnosed with cancer. She had had a tiny, tiny taste of normalcy and craved more.
Yael’s mornings were spent receiving treatment and her afternoons enjoying the ‘fun stuff’ which is what the kids call professional therapy at Ezer Mizion. Some days it may be sand play or a story about Shimshie, the Lion, who got sick. Other days, she did crafts or played with the animals at Ezer Mizion’s petting zoo-all under the guidance of therapists whom Yael thought of as older friends.
And now it was her birthday and a party was in the offing. Ezer Mizion coordinated the whole event including a popular children’s entertainer, Tal Moseri, as MC. Her Ezer Mizion friends came but Yael wanted more. “Mommy, can we invite my friends from school? Please?! Please?!” And so Ezer Mizion added another twenty little girls to the guest list. Every party has its bumps and Yael’s was no exception. But never has there been a party when, as part of the games, the birthday girl would be asked to write the names of the guests and be unable to. You see, Yael’s didn’t know her friends’ names. Two days several months ago is not enough time to learn everyone’s names . Yael didn’t know her guests’ names but she was very happy. “I had regular kids at my party, Mommy. Plain old regular kids.” For one afternoon, Yael could pretend she was normal, just like everyone else. And pretend she did. They played Simple Simon. The birthday girl called out the commands: “Put your hand on your hair,” she said, demonstrating with a grin as she placed her own hand on her non-existent hair.
Yael’s party is over. Her ‘regular’ friends have gone back to their world and Yael is, unfortunately, back as a resident of a scary world that no seven year old should ever know about. As the guests left and balloons were taken down, Yael’s birthday wish turned into a prayer. May her eighth birthday party be celebrated with her friends in the classroom as she proudly sports a pretty clip around her long pony tail.